Blazers

Blazers gain some momentum

A 121-105 win over Phoenix leads right to key Memphis contest
Staff Report

The NBA playoffs might not be so far off after all for the Portland Trail Blazers.

After a 121-105 win over Phoenix at the Moda Center Tuesday night, the team moved up a full game in its race to catch Memphis for the eighth playoff spot with the Grizzlies losing at home to Orlando Tuesday.

The win/loss moved Portland to within 3.5 games of Memphis, and the Grizzlies will be in town Thursday. A win would pull te Blazers to within 2.5 games with 15 games left in the regular season. And the Blazers will still have three home games in a row following Thursday's game.

Damial Lillard led the Blazers with 25 points, and C.J. McCollum and Trevor Ariza added 22 points each as the team snapped a two-game losing streak.

The win avenged a 127-117 loss in Phoenix Friday night in which 6-foot-10 forward Aaron Baynes hit a Suns team record nine three-point shots. Baynes made just one of seven three-pointers Tuesday and finished with seven points and two rebounds. Devin Booker led the Suns with 29 points.

Portland improved to 29-37 with its third win in its last five games.

Phoenix dropped to 26-39.

 

 

The Blazers season of headaches gets worse

SPORTSLAND: Bad timing for a homestand or is it?
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

In one of the most frustrating seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans, it's hard to think of a way for things to get more frustrating. And, yet they are about to get that way.

And, it's really bad timing, too - at the start of a homestand.

Portland plays its second game of a six-game homestand tonight against the Phoenix Suns with the issue of the coronavirus hanging right over the Moda Center. The prospect of 20,000 fans/citizens congregating in one place while an international pandemic works its way through every part of the world, seemingly one nation, one state, one town at a time. And, Portland appears right in the line of being next, since the virus has already shut down one school in Lake Oswego for a couple days.

Washington has lost nearly a dozen residents to the virus, and it shut down the Northwest Athletic Conference basketball tournament this weekend in Everett, Wash.

Stadiums are being closed, events shuttered or cancelled/postponed across America. The San Jose Sharks of the NHL might play games before no fans at all. 

And, the Winterhawks are going to get stung by this dilemma, too, as they have a home game on Saturday.

Daily, we follow the world trying to control the spread of the virus by keeping people apart.

And, yet, it's ... so easy to just want to let it pass by - all that concern about thed dangers of bringing people together when you're an organization that survives on bringing people together because that's the source of your revenue.

No crowd, no money.

The Portland Timbers squeezed through this dilemma in the last 10 days with the first two games of their season and don't play at again Providence Park until the end of the month. The Blazers, though, have tonight and four more home games in what should have been a key point of their playoff drive - the way they looked at it when building the schedule in the offseason.

Now, that homestand is a big "what are we going to do?"

High school's final three state basketball tournaments are this weekend, but they are poised to squeeze through this dilemma by just hoping the state-by-state, town-by-town spread doesn't reach Portland or Corvallis or Forest Grove before Sunday.

All the event organizers are saying the same thing: "we're watching the situation, and will act accordingly." That's really all they can do until civic leaders tell them what to do, and they are definitely in touch with those leaders telling them be really sure what you tell us.

So, here's the real dilemma for those leaders, and one I have myself. How really dangerous is this virus, and is it so dangerous we have to cancel events?

The basic answer is yes it is enough to cancel an event like tonight's game with the Suns, or the state hoop tournaments this weekend due to the potential for the spread of the virus. We're reasoning about public health and the best way to keep the virus from spreading is to keep people apart at the start of the pandemic. Cancel or postpone stuff through this weekend, and that might stop it from spreading dramatically through Portland and the many parts of the state entirely. Let's just be extra cautious is likely right on the desk of Portland's City Council right now.

But, that's the really, really cautious way to address this issue - the spread of the virus. But, how much of our daily lives do we really have to change due to what just seems to be the flu, and not even close to the flu by the measurements available? Is the public just overreacting due to the media's need for drama?

The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, and there's a shot that's available to keep many more people from dying. The coronavirus? It might be infecting people by the thousands weekly, but the number of deaths is still not even close to 100. Tens of thousands of people infected, but only a couple dozen have died. 

As much as I'm not a fan of the President and how he talks or what he says because of ... so many reasons, he outlined what a lot of people probably did or have come to think during his press conference that interruped Galen Rupp winning the U.S. Marathon Trial, Feb. 29. If you're healthy, you're probably not going to die, but just get flu-like symptoms for a couple weeks, and then it'll be over.

Most of the people who have died were in failing health anyway, so this just sped up that process. Can you imagine a public leader even intimating that? And, yet, he did. But, it does seem to be the reality. Healthy people are dying in the U.S. seemingly at a rate of - it's hard to put a rate on it. By comparison, handfuls of people die everyday from auto accidents, but highways are not closed due to that. NBA games are not cancelled because of the flu, because people who think they have the flu generally just stay home. The coronavirus is different as far as we know because you probably won't know you've got it until several days after you get it, but then it's going to turn into ... the flu.

And when you've got the flu, you stay home, watch TV, eat a bunch of Ramen noodles, drink a bunch of water and get better.

If I had tickets for the Blazers tonight, I wouldn't have a problem attending, although for the next four games that might change to some degree because the virus might have infected people in this part of the world by then.

I'm actually more concerned about the state high school basketball tournaments scheduled for this weekend because there's going to be so many young people involved - those who've had less time to build up their immune system - on and off the court. So there's more potential for ... whatever the coronavirus is ... to infect them and spread to others.

And, yet, I'd hate to see those tournaments cancelled because of what could easily be termed media overreation due to a need for the drama that media needs to develop on an hourly basis so people with watch and read. What we seem to have here is the flu - or even diet flu - with a different name. Is that enough to cancel what is the conclusion of a glorious period in the lives of so many student/athletes of their playing careers, which might end up with a trophy or a ferocious celebration and cutting down of a net? It's definitely a lasting memory however it plays out and that's a good thing for education. That's an interesting call to make for tournament organizers. Civic officials. School officials.

Health officials have already said it's likely going to be 18 months before an antidote for this virus is readily available. There is, though, a shot for the flu that exists and it still doesn't work on everyone. I've never gotten a flu shot and don't plan to, either, because I think it's more likely to make me sick than not getting it. That's probably how I would react to a coronavirus shot - I'd pass.

And, that's how it works for my family, too - wife and two kids. We get sick all the time, but think it's more related to just cold weather, and lack of sleep that causes it. Or a desire not to go to school. Then, there's sleep, TV, ramen, water and back to business as usual. We probably get it from someone else, too, but that's just daily life, just like driving a car or riding a bike. There's always potential for danger. 

It would take a lot more bad news on infections and/or deaths to think we should be treating the coronavirus as being worse than the flu or anywhere near the Black Plague. Or even worse than an AR-15. But, I'm not dealing with worst-case scenario for tens of thousands of people. So, good luck with those upcoming decisions. I know how I'd react, but I also don't get a flu shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nurkic returning in time for ... next season prep

Blazers just about out of playoff hunt for 2020
Staff Report

If there were a time for the Portland Trail Blazers to get hot during the 2019-20 NBA season, this would be just about the perfect time. 

Not only do the Blazers have their top two scorers in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the court, but Carmelo Anthony has shown off his consistency and Hassan Whiteside is regularly a stud in the middle. So, what does the team need to get going? Jusef Nurkic - yes.

Nurkic has been recovering from surgery for nearly a year, but is expected to return this week, with the team 4.5 games from a playoff spot. At 28-37, they're nine games under .500 with just 17 games left in the season. As Memphis is 32-32 in eighth place in the Western Conference, it's likely the Blazers will need to finish at .500 to tie or edge the Grizzlies for that spot, needing to pass both New Orleans and Sacramento to achieve that. 

That's a 13-4 finish to accomplish that feat - reach .500. 

But, that would be the way to head into the playoffs - on fire. And, Memphis is a testament to that being possible as it won 11 consecutive games at one point this season to move into the eighth spot.

And the next five games are at home, beginning with Phoenix Tuesday. Thursday, the Blazers match-up with Memphis, the easiest way to make up ground on the Grizz.

 

BLAZERS SCHEDULE

March 10 vs. Phoenix, 26-38

March 12 vs. Memphis, 32-32

March 15 vs. Houston, 39-24

March 17 vs. Minnesota, 19-44

March 19 vs. Dallas, 39-26

 

 

 

Lillard dazzles on somber night for basketball

Portland beat the Lakers 127-119 in first post-Kobe game
Associated Press

It was a game that had to be played, and the Portland Trail Blazers came out on top.

In their first game since the death of legend Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers honored one of the franchises' most revered players led by an address to the crowd by Lebron James. 

Once the contest began, James and teammate Anthony Davis combined for 59 points, but Portland's Damian Lillard nearly matched that himself.

Lillard hit seven three-point shots and went off for 48 points, just missing his second career triple-double with 10 assists and nine rebounds. He notched his first triple-double earlier in the week.

Portland got an amazing performance from center Hasan Whiteside, who hit 13 of 14 field-goal attempts on the way to 30 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds. C.J. McCollum added 19 points for Portland.

The Blazers overcame a 61-40 deficit in rebounds by creating a 17-5 edge in turnovers. The Lakers also missed 10 free throws.

In 40 minutes, Lillard hit 17 of 30 shots and had just one turnover. McCollum made 8 of 22 shots and did not have a turnover.

Portland, which improved to 22-27 and moved to with two games of Memphis, which lost to New Orleans Friday, in the race for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers return to action Saturday with a home game against Utah (32-16).

 

 

Damian, Blazers dominate Warriors

Lillard's 44 leads Portland past Golden State in ESPN showdown
Staff report

Damian Lillard turned Wednesday night's game with Golden State into a duel with Kevin Durant and although he lost that battle, the Blazers' point guard won the war with a 123-117 victory at the Moda Center in a nationally-televised game.

Portland led by 15 early on and never trailed in winning for the 10th time in its last 11 home games and snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors.

Lillard finished with 44 points, while Durant tossed in 50.

 

UTAH 115, PORTLAND 96

PORTLAND - The Utah Jazz kept right on moving toward the NBA Playoffs Sunday night with a scorching performance in Portland.

An eight-game win streak turned into nine after a 115-96 win at the Moda Center as the Jazz - all decked out in orange and white - got 27 points from Donovan Mitchell to lead a team effort that overcame a 39-point performance from Damian Lillard.

Portland had its nine-game win streak at home snapped as it prepped for the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

PORTLAND 118, SACRAMETO 100

It wasn't that long ago that C.J. McCollum dropped 50 points onto an NBA team in three quarters of action. Now, Damian Lillard has another 50-point game to his name.

Lillard didn't fight Portland coach Terry Stotts' decision to sit him in the fourth quarter, even though was was well within reach of his career high for points at 58. Having scored a season-high 50 in 29 minutes -- the fourth 50-point game of his career -- Lillard saw no reason to tempt fate.

Lillard scored 22 points in the third quarter, and the Blazers beat the Kings 118-100 on Friday night.

"I saw we were up 20 and I was like, 'OK, if we keep this lead, there's really no reason to go back in there," Lillard said. "I'd rather have a 50 in 29 minutes with some character than go out there and chase 60. I feel like that's bad karma."

Lillard scored at will, making 16 of 26 shots -- including eight 3-pointers -- and all 10 of his free throw attempts. His only action in the fourth came when Stotts sent him to the scorer's table briefly after Sacramento cut Portland's lead to 13.

When Shabazz Napier stopped the Kings' run with a 3-pointer, Lillard looked at Stotts and the two men nodded in agreement that his night was over.

Lillard, who also had six assists, joined McCollum and Houston's James Harden as the only players to score 50 points through three quarters this season.

 

PORTLAND 109, CHARLOTTE 103 (OT)

PORTLAND - Ahead by 17 points with 7:14 left in the game, the Portland Trail Blazers seemed headed for their ninth straight home with enough fans could head to their nearest Uber ride and go home.

Not the case.

The Charlotte Hornets rallied to send the game into overtime before Portland pulled out a 109-103 victory at the Moda Center Thursday night, ending a three-game skid.

Jusuf Nurkic led Portland with 24 points and 14 rebounds, while C.J. McCollum added 22 points and Damian Lillard scored 18 points and dished out eight assists.

Kemba Walker scored 40 pointsfor Charlotte to lead all scorers.

Portland led 92-75, but was outscored 22-5 in under six minutes. Amazingly, neither team scored in the final 1:45 of regulartion, which ended at 97-all.

The Blazers improved to 30-25 on the season an are a half-game ahead of Denver in the race for sixth place in the Western Conference heading into a game at Sacramento Friday.

 

 

McCollum dazzles Portland's diehard fans

Portland shooting guard sets franchise record in win over Chicago
Staff report

PORTLAND - Fans who got to the Moda Center late Wednesday night missed a performance for the ages by CJ McCollum.

Taking advantage of an unispired opponent, McCollum scored 28 points in the first quarter, setting a franchise record for points in a quarter by one player, as the Portland Trail Blazers beat Chicago 124-108.

McCollum, in his fifth year with the Blazers, finished with 50 points in the win on 18-of-25 shooting from the field, including six three-pointers.

The win moved Portland to 29-22 overall, good for sixth place in the Western Conference, a game behind Oklahoma City and 1.5 games behind Minnesota in the battle for the Northwest Division title.

Portland plays at Toronto, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, Friday.

Chicago dropped to 18-33.

With McCollum scoring from the opening minute, the Blazers led 43-19 after one quarter and cruised to their eighth straight win at home. McCollum, who hit four three-pointers in the first quarter, sat out the fourth quarter and finished just nine points short of the team scoring record held by Damian Lillard.

Lillard finished with 13 points and seven assists.

 

NBA coaches finally select Lillard again

Damian gets third trip to All-Star Game
Staff report

The NBA chose to honor Damian Lillard again for his consistent play and social work - with a spot in the All-Star Game.

A unique All-Star Game at that set for Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The 14 reserves, including reigning NBA Player of the Year Russell Westbrook, were selected by the NBA’s head coaches and announced Tuesday night.

Joining Lillard and Westbrook as reserves in the Western Conference player pool are LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs, Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

Lillard will play in this third All-Star Game after being left off the roster the past two seasons.

With Green and Thompson earning spots alongside starters Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, the Warriors are the first team to have a record-tying four All-Stars in consecutive years.
The Eastern Conference reserve pool includes three first-time All-Stars: Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks. They are joined by Al Horford of the Boston Celtics, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors and John Wall of the Wizards.   

The 67th NBA All-Star Game, featuring Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen, will air on TNT and ESPN Radio. The midseason classic is being promoted as potentially reaching fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

Under the new All-Star Game format that replaces the traditional matchup between conferences, Curry and Cleveland’s LeBron James – the All-Star starter from each conference who received the most fan votes in his conference – will serve as team captains and draft the team rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves.  

All-Star team rosters will be unveiled on Thursday.

Curry and James will select the team rosters without regard for conference affiliation. Each captain will choose 11 players to complete a 12-man roster. The 2018 NBA All-Star Draft rules are as follows:

The eight All-Star Game starters (aside from Curry and James) will be drafted in the first round.

The 14 All-Star Game reserves will be drafted in the second round.

As the top overall vote-getter among fans, James will have the first pick in the first round (starters). Curry will have the first pick in the second round (reserves).

The starters, announced last week, were selected by a combination of fans, current NBA players and a media panel. The East starter pool is James, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) and Kyrie Irving (Boston). The West starter pool is Curry, DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and James Harden (Houston Rockets).

 

Damian could easily be whining

Lillard gets All-Star Game flack from potential teammate
Staff Report

In the wake of Russell Westbrook's whining, complaining comments about teammate Paul George being, at least, temporarily left out of the All-Star Game, it's not hard to wonder ... how come Damian Lillard isn't whining about someone else not being left off the big roster that's going to be separated into two, basically playground teams.

That's how far the All-Star Game has devolved to get people to pay attention. There's now two captains who pick teams based on a draft system.

They should hold the draft on game day - make it like the captains used to do when they were younger. That would get some attention at the start of the game. Then, make them trade a couple guys at halftime. Like the playground days.

Instead of whining like Russell, Damian took the high road Wednesday in talking to media:

"I respect Russ a lot, so it was kind of disappointing to see him say that," Lillard said prior to Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Because he's played against me, he's played against our team, he knows what I've accomplished. Not just this year, but over my career. So it was a little bit disappointing, but I know that I earned my spot this year. And that's pretty much what it is: I earned my spot."

What are the odds Westbrook and Lillard end up on the same team?

Pro sports has always been about, heck being in the public eye, has always been about getting headlines, and that means shooting your mouth off on a regular basis.

Westbrook could have gotten some of the same headlines by saying people might say Damian is having a great season, and he's been overlooked the past couple years (and he has), but Paul George is having a great season and deverses a spot as well. So if Damian pulls a muscle and needs to sit out, or anyone else does, then Paul George should be the first call. Otherwise, he'll probably be at home toasting those of us who are still working while he's got a weekend off.

 

Blazers hitting mid-season ice storm

Denver hands Portland another home loss
Staff report

PORTLAND - A scorching loss to Denver Friday put the Portland Trail Blazers in an unusual spot - struggling at home.

After falling 102-85 to the Nuggest at the Moda Center, Portland sat at 16-16 overall, and in seventh place in the Western Conference. But, they're 7-10 at home, making the Blazers the lone playoff-bound team with a losing record at home.

Last season, the Blazers were 25-16 at home.

Portland will look to battle out of a three-game losing streak at the Los Angeles Lakers, a team it's beaten 14 consecutive times, Saturday night - in Los Angeles.

SATURDAY

Portland plays at the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota plays at Phoenix, Denver plays at Golden State, Oklahoma City plays at Utah.

 

DAME DRAWS ROAD TRIP IRE

Damian Lillard drew national attention Tuesday for ... reacting to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves following Portland's 108-107 loss in Minneapolis Mondday night.

While walking to the team bus, bystanders began shouting what has been described as anti-gay insults in the direction of Lillard, who played 37 minutes in the game. He finished with 17 points and 13 assists, but was visibly unhappy with media regarding the officiating during the game.

Lillard, an All-Star point guard, attempted just one free throw in the game and his teammates had just four others. Minnesota attempted 21 free throws.

His last-second attempt at a victory fell short. The incident at the bus was not 30 minutes later.

"I don't bother nobody," Lillard told ESPN. "They were straight disrespectful."

Cellphone video captured an irritated Lillard approaching the hecklers, asking, "Which one of you all said that?" A woman in the area pointed out one of the individuals, and that person apologized. Sources at the scene say no action was taken against the fans.

Athlete Ally, a non-profit group trying to end homophobia in sports, issued a statement on Tuesday.

"The use of these homophobic slurs have no place in sports or in society," Executive Director Hudson Taylor said. "Fan sections remain one of the most unsafe places for the LGBTQ community, and will remain so if these slurs aren't met with condemnation and continued education."

Portland, 16-14 and in fifth place in the Western Conference, returns to action Wednesday at the Moda Center against San Antonio, 21-10 and in third place in the conference.

 

Bell shines, sparks Warriors' win

Oregon alum helps Golden State stymie Lillard, Portland
AP Report

Dunks, blocks, and the gravity of being in the perfect place at the perfect time. It would be easy to say that of course Jordan Bell can do this on a great team like the Warriors, but a roster like that should be even harder to crack for a rookie. Yet here he is fitting in like he has been playing in the system for years. That’s impressive.

As some of the Warriors other stars get old, which will happen eventually, the front office can be happy knowing it got someone like Bell to fill the roles. If he keeps making plays like this, maybe he’ll become a Warriors headliner.

Bell isn’t likely to win a regular spot in the Warriors starting lineup this season. But, over the last five weeks, Bell has evolved from occasionally being relegated to the inactive list to earning semi-regular minutes to becoming a very valuable member of the bench.

And his coach, Steve Kerr, also has evolved from benching Bell for learning purposes to saying he deserves more minutes to, this week, announcing that the forward/center is been “outstanding” in his rookie season.

The latest examples came Monday night, in a 111-104 win over Portland. With Draymond Green sitting out due to sore right shoulder, Kerr inserted Bell into the lineup for his third start. His numbers were excellent: 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and one block over 26 minutes. He was plus-14, best of anyone on the team.

But, as often is the case, Bell’s performance includes moments that astound the observer. In this instance it’s a third-quarter chase-down block of a layup by Blazers star Damian Lillard, the trailer on a two-on-one fast break.

Bell, who concedes that his bad-pass turnover triggered the Portland break, immediately remembers a sequence last week in New Orleans, where a Warriors turnover gave the Pelicans a three-on-one break.

“They missed, got the rebound again and missed again,” he recalled. “I was just standing there and coach was like, ‘Get down there. You’re a rookie. That’s how you have to be successful on this team. You have to play hard.’

“I was about to walk down. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get taken out.’ So I just ran down and happened to be in the right place.”

It’s one of several highlight plays for the Warriors. No, it was more than that.

“That chase-down block after the turnover was spectacular,” said Kevin Durant, who drained a jumper seven seconds after the block. “That play kind of got us going.”

If Lillard makes the layup, it trims the Warriors lead to nine, 66-57, with 9:32 left in the quarter.

Instead, with Oracle Arena roaring and the team energized, the Warriors turn up the energy and, less than three minutes later, have a 21-point lead, 80-59.

 

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