Steven Adams

Hassan Whiteside feeling healthy, feeling like he knows his role now

Hassan Whiteside feeling healthy, feeling like he knows his role now

Trail Blazers starting center Hassan Whiteside accepted the challenge of bodying up Thunder big man Steven Adams on Wednesday night.

Whiteside led all scorers after the first quarter with 14 points to go along with his six-first quarter rebounds.

The Blazers big man was a big part of Portland’s quick start against the Thunder as the Blazers rolled OKC 136-119 on Wednesday.

And Whiteside seemed to have found his groove on the offensive end over the last two games.

That sums up Whiteside's night. 

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his big man had a “great start,” adding that, “[Hassan] had the full package again, he had it all. He’s got good touch in the paint, and I thought our guys did a good job finding him, and he did a good job finishing, and he was a big part of that first quarter.”

Whiteside amassed 21 points and 12 rebounds by halftime. He finished the night with 16 rebounds to Adams’ six boards. 

But what does the Blazers 7-footer think was working so well for the Blazers to score a season-high 42 points in the first quarter?

“I think, man, we’re just coming together. Guys are getting healthy, guys are getting back in the lineup, and I think we’re starting to build some chemistry, and getting stops, and offensively it’s coming along,” Whiteside said.

“We’re going to keep building,” Whiteside added.   

Both coach Stotts and Damian Lillard believe that having Carmelo Anthony on the floor for them obviously helps space the floor. But, they also feel that because the pick and roll between Lillard and Whiteside has evolved that has helped give the Blazers more open shots.

Coach Stotts mentioned how before Whiteside suffered a right hip injury, he and Lillard were starting to build a better pick and roll relationship.

Stotts also stated, “Damian had such good chemistry with Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic) and Nurk’s a different roller than Hassan, so I think Dame’s figured out where he’s gonna be and when he’s gonna be there and I think their pick and roll has become more effective.”

It was apparent in the first handful of games that Whiteside had never really been in this type of a role. He looked uncomfortable setting the screen at the top of the key and was struggling then to roll to hoop for his point guard to dish it to him down low.

The Trail Blazers winning two straight games goes hand in hand with Whiteside showing improvement on setting a solid screen and not just coming to the top of the key and slipping by the defender.

Lillard explained postgame, “the more I communicate with [Hassan], the more he’s starting to understand what I want to do. It’s just getting better with time. So 18, 19 games in, it should be getting better and it is.”

In Wednesday night’s win, Whiteside was one point shy of matching his season-high as he finished with 21 points.

He attributes his effectiveness to his body feeling good once again.

“Outside of the first game, I think this is probably the most healthy I’ve felt,” Whiteside said.

Game 3 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. OKC Thunder: How and Where to Watch & Stream the game

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Game 3 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. OKC Thunder: How and Where to Watch & Stream the game

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

As the series shifts to Oklahoma City for Game 3 and 4, the Trail Blazers take a 2-0 series lead with them.  Portland has not led a playoff series 2-0 since the First Round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. In the Blazers’ 114-94 victory over the Thunder on Tuesday night, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 62 points, while Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless continued to make it tough for Paul George to get clean looks. George scored 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting.  

Lillard knows there is still a lot of work to be done.

"I know how quickly things can change," said Lillard. "I know that a series doesn’t start until you win a game on the road. I also know how capable their team is. So we’ve just got to maintain our focus, stay sharp in the things we’ve been sharp in, and understand how well we played in the first game and the second game is not going to be good enough in the third game, especially on their home floor.”

History is on the Blazers side though. When the Blazers have a 2-0 series lead, the team is a perfect 14-0 in the playoffs.


Where to Watch: NBC Sports Northwest

Where to Watch on the go: Stream the game live on the new MyTeams App

Tip-Off Time: 6:30 p.m. 

Point spread: Oklahoma City -7.5

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (4:00 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the postgame show). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio



For the Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out for Tuesday's Game 3 vs. OKC.

For the Thunder, Andre Roberson (left patellar) and Hamidou Diallo (right elbow) are out.


Dwight Jaynes: OKC has the Thunder but Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are raining threes

Jamie Hudson: Trail Blazers head to OKC, where Damian Lillard's tap of the wrist all began

Mike Richman: Damian Lillard's defense at the center of the Blazers 2-0 series lead

VIDEO: Lillard Time: Dame, Blazers return to where it all began

VIDEO: Blazers know they face a long road despite 2-0 advantage

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2

The Trail Blazers and Thunder have shown time and time again that these two teams do not like each other. The playoffs have heightened that dislike.

Whether it was Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook getting into a friendly shoving match after Westerbrook fell to the floor late in the second quarter or big men Zach Collins and Markieff Morris being hit with offsetting technicals, there’s no doubt the physical play is here to stay.

Game 2 was as much of a battle as Game 1 and it was an exciting one at that. OKC led for a majority of the first half, but after Lillard scored 12 points in the second quarter and McCollum hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half, the Blazers and Thunder were all tied at 54.

Portland’s third quarter defense was the turning point in the game. The Blazers held the Thunder to just 21 points in the quarter and they never looked back. Portland takes Game 2, 114-94.

The Trail Blazers now go up a 2-0 as the best of seven-series shifts to Oklahoma City.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 114, Thunder 94

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 2 victory:

1. A healthy dose of Adams to start

The Thunder started the game by getting Steven Adams involved. Adams got a lot of touches and went right at Enes Kanter. The Blazers starting center picked up two quick fouls midway through the first quarter.

In his first nine minutes of play, Adams went 3-of-4 from the field to score six points. Kanter's early foul trouble seemed to affect his offensive game. Kanter was not much of a factor in the Blazers scoring in Game 2.  

2. Schroder stuck on Lillard

Backup point guard Dennis Schroder’s assignment for Game 2 was simple:

Make it as tough as humanly possible for Lillard to even sniff the ball.

Schroder was stuck on Lillard like glue. He had a hand or arm on Lillard at all times. The Blazers starting point guard had a hard time getting shots up early on with the pesky Schorder guarding him. Lillard went 2-of-5 and 0-of-2 from three in his first 12 minutes of action.

However, when Lillard returned to the game in the second quarter, it was apparent he was determined to get off shots no matter how difficult they were. Lillard brought the house down with two very contested threes in the second quarter.

With so much focus on Lillard that made way for CJ McCollum.

McCollum was up for the challenge. He carried the scoring load for much of the game. At the end of the third, he had 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting.  

3. Fouls a plenty

Just like the media and fans, the referees also know the bad blood between these two teams.

In a span of about 15 seconds in the first quarter three fouls were called. Whether it was a charge call, a moving screen, or a blocking call, the whistles were being blown.

At the 2:54 mark of the second quarter, Al-Farouq Aminu picked up his third foul.  At halftime, the Blazers had committed 15 personal fouls. The Thunder had 14 fouls at the break.  Aminu and Kanter both had three fouls by halftime.

Despite foul trouble, the Blazers turned it up on the defensive end in the third quarter. Portland clamped down on defense to start the second half and that was what turned the game around for the Blazers.

Kanter picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, which gave an opportunity to Meyers Leonard. Leonard rose to the occasion, guarding Adams and even slowing doing guards when needed. Leonard finished the game with the best plus/minus of any bench player for the Blazers.  

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Thunder will tip-off Game 3 on Friday night at 6:30pm pacific time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest and on the MyTeams App. Our pregame coverage starts at 5:30pm.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Enes Kanter was the real MVP of Game 1, according to Damian Lillard

Enes Kanter was the real MVP of Game 1, according to Damian Lillard

The score was 39-25, Trail Blazers leading after the first quarter. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shot lights-out to begin the game.

It was a great start for what was sure to be a tough game.

Of course, as everyone knows, it's how you finish that counts in an NBA game of runs.

Sunday afternoon, it was Enes Kanter who finished off his former team.

In the last 91 seconds of Game 1 on Sunday, Kanter came up with two huge offensive rebounds and a driving left-handed lay-up that his team would praise him about afterwards as the Trail Blazers held off the Thunder, 104-99.  

The 26-year-old finished with 20 points and 18 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end. This was Kanter’s third postseason game with a double-double.

As Kanter walked off the floor, Trail Blazers General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, Neil Olshey made sure to find his newest acquisition

“After we got the win, I was walking to the locker room, I saw the GM Neil,” Kanter said. “And, he told me, ‘what a great decision, right?’ I said, “I appreciate it, thank you so much,’ because if you look at it, I was on the worst team in the league and I wasn’t even playing.”

There’s no doubt Kanter is thankful to be in Portland rather than New York City where he started the season. Kanter has been preaching that since the first day he put on a Blazers uniform.  

As for Game 1, it was a physical battle between these two teams, just as expected.

It came down to the wire and there was Kanter, boxing out Steven Adams to snag two key rebounds in the final seconds; Lillard gave a lot of credit to the big fella after the game.

“He was the MVP of the game,” Lillard said. “Especially down the stretch getting us second opportunities, third opportunities. He had a huge presence down the stretch and played a huge part in us winning this game.”

For Kanter, it was strange to face his old teammates, his old friends, in a game of such importance. 

“A big game like this, it did feel really weird, and I was very nervous before the game. I tried to talk to Steven [Adams] and he didn’t even look at me, he was just so focused on his game and I knew he was going to do that, but I think all the credit goes to my teammates, they made me very comfortable,” Kanter said.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan wasn’t phased by what Kanter was able to do against his former team, especially in crunch time.

“He does what he always does, offensive rebounds… It’s where a lot of his points came from; he had one face-up and maybe a couple of post-ups… But, Enes has been doing that for a long time,” Donovan said.

“Toughness” is one of the words Blazers head coach Terry Stotts used to describe Kanter’s play.

“He gave us a lot of toughness inside,” Stotts said. “Obviously with his rebounding and scoring, but I thought his conditioning was really good. He maintained a high level of play for a long period of time.”

Portland needed the rebounding and toughness from Kanter. The Blazers were also fortunate that the Thunder did not make several wide-open looks, especially from three-point range.

OKC was playing through Steven Adams on offense early in the game. Adams had 13 of his 17 points in the first half.

Many feel that Adams can expose Kanter down low in this first round series, but Blazers head coach Terry Stotts does not feel that way.

“One-on-one against Steven Adams, he can hold his own on the block. Pick and roll defense, he gives good effort, he’s communicating, so as a coach that’s all you can ask for is that a player is giving effort, trying to do what you want him to do. Enes has been like that from day one with us.”

Lillard echoed the same sentiments and also, acknowledged that people dog on his defensive game too.

“I’m not considered a great defender, but I think when the effort is there, when your focus is there and you care enough, the desire is there, you can do something for the team. I think that’s shown since [Enes] has been on our team and it showed tonight,” Lillard said. 

As the Blazers now take 1-0 advantage over the Thunder in the best-of-seven series, Kanter was reflecting on what it has meant to be a Trail Blazer in the postseason.

“A couple days ago I looked in the mirror, I am blessed to just be here. What an amazing organization. What amazing teammates and they trust me,” Kanter said. 

Trusting each other is what could make or break this playoff run for the Blazers.

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter had a decision to make in February.

Cut loose by the lowly New York Knicks (“They thought I was too old,” he said), Kanter was being pursued by several teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And while a good many players might have chosen Hollywood, sunshine and LeBron James, Kanter picked Portlandia, rainy days and Damian Lillard.

And with the way things have turned out with the two teams this season, he’s one very happy man about that choice.

“Now is the fun time,” he said. “The playoffs. Win or go home. It’s amazing. I’m super blessed. I could have been going on vacation yesterday.

“I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and said, ‘I should feel very blessed to be with this team and this organization.’ It means a lot because this one of the classiest and one of the best organizations I’ve ever been a part of.

“If I went to LA, I probably would have gone nuts.”

It was a very close call, he said. A difficult decision.

“It was between Portland and LA,” Kanter said. “I didn’t know. It was 50-50. But then Dame texted me. And Neil (Olshey) texted me. This team wanted me.”

And it was a very fortuitous move by the Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg March 25 and Portland had a seasoned, experienced (583 regular-season NBA games and 27 playoff games) pro to start at center.

And it’s not as if Kanter hasn’t had some huge games at Moda Center in his life.

His NBA high game was the 33-pointer he had for the Thunder on April 6, 2016 in Portland. And he broke Dirk Nowitzki’s one-game scoring record with a 34-point, 13-rebound game while playing for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit at Moda in 2010.

But now he’s in a Portland uniform matched up against his former Thunder teammates.

It’s safe to say that nobody in a Blazer uniform knows more about the team’s first-round playoff opponent than Kanter.

Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder through two and a half seasons with them, ending with the 2016-17 season.

During that time there were countless practice matchups with the OKC center, Steven Adams, whom he backed up.

Still friends to this day, Kanter fondly remembers those days going against Adams.

“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kanter said. “Obviously me and him were going against each other for two and a half years. He is very athletic. He has a very high basketball IQ. He reads the game very well.

“He is very important to them on defense. I think he’s their backbone.

“We know each other’s game. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do. But I think the next step is who is going to be more focused and who is going to bring the most effort.”

As a former member of the enemy team, Kanter said he might have some inside information about the Thunder.

“It’s my ex-team and I know a lot of the guys and know their games.  I said a couple of things to the assistant coaches,” he said. “But I think they already know those things. Everybody’s doing a really good job of scouting the other teams.”

Sunday afternoon, in Game 1 of the series, we will find out.