The Blazers head into Utah, a team they beat easily last week, 24 hours after beating a quality San Antonio Spurs team last night. Hassan Whiteside is a late scratch tonight and Caleb Swanigan gets his fourth career start. He’s going to have his hands full with Rudy Gobert tonight. The Jazz are losers of five in a row Damian Lillard hits a 32 footer to open up the game and then hits another thirty footer, bringing him to 39 shots made from 30 plus feet this year. He’s on another level. Outside of Stephen Curry he’s probably the best pure shooter in the game. CJ McCollum is also starting off strong tonight. It’s really good to see him get going right off the bat for the second game in a row. The Blazers are much better when he’s playing hot from the get go. It opens up guys like Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza. Lillard is just on another level. He’s four for four from three and has 12 points in the first six minutes of the game. He has not hit the rim once. As Kevin Calabro would say, “he’s left his body and is gone to a different plane.” Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. have come off the bench hot again. These two are really picking it up at the right time. It’s getting to the point where anything that Trent shoots I think it’s going to go down and he doesn’t miss bad at this point either. Simons was undercut by Royce O’Neale on a jump shot and landed hard on his back, with his head bouncing off the floor. He stayed down for quite a while after the fall. He was taken straight to the locker room after being helped up off the floor by the trainers. The Blazers cannot afford another injury. The Blazers shot 75% in the first quarter, with Damian Lillard going 6-6 for 16 points in the quarter. Blazers have a 38-32 lead after one quarter. Mike Conley hit a three as time expired. Donovan Mitchell had a very quiet seven points in the quarter. The defense for the Blazers was pretty solid in the first 12 minutes. When Lillard is on the bench to start the second. Things tend to go a little off the rails for the Blazers in this portion of the game. For example, Trevor Ariza almost killing an official and getting kicked out. Then Mike Conley leading the Jazz back into the lead. Mario Hezonja is probably going to have to play 30 minutes tonight now. That’s just great. The Jazz are now on a 17-4 run. Thankfully, Lillard checks in and immediately scores six points to get the Blazers the lead back. The Jazz are actively triple-teaming him now. This really feels like game six of a playoff matchup. Guys are up in each other’s faces, lots of talk, lots of physicalities. I don’t think the Blazers have much of a shot to have a matchup with Utah in the playoffs this year. They are nine games out of the fifth spot and Utah is sitting in the four spot. If anything we’ll get a Lakers and Nuggets first-round matchup. Mario Hezonja just beat Rudy Gobert on a jump ball, Gary Trent Jr. took the ball and beat everyone down the court for an easy layup. Trent then gets a steal on back to back shots. One led to a Lillard layup and the other lead to three by Hezonja. Blazers on a 14-2 at the end of the half. They only have seven guys tonight and are on the second night of a back to back. You can really see the frustration of the Jazz coming out. They were 17-2 before losing their last five games. Blazers are up by 14, 72-58. Lillard has 28 points. Trent Jr. and Mitchell were called for technical fouls at the end of the half. This game is chippy. Jazz open up with a quick eight points to cut the Blazers’ lead down to ten points. Joe Ingles and Mike Conley each had a three and Terry Stotts called a quick timeout to make sure the Jazz don’t get into much of a rhythm. Out of the timeout Lillard blocks a Donovan Mitchell shot and a steal on the next possession. He then hits a three from thirty feet. Both teams are upset at the officials tonight. And they have every right to be. The officiating has been all over the map. They’ve let hammers go and then call something a foul that isn’t a foul. It’s happened both ways. Carmelo Anthony is 1-7 from the floor tonight and off his last miss, Donovan Mitchell drains a three. Blazers lead is down to four, 79-75. Hezonja and Swanigan both have four fouls. Wenyen Gabriel might get some extended run tonight. The Jazz go on an 8-0 run to cut the Blazer lead down to 84-83. The Jazz got away with a kickball that led to a Bojan Bogdanovic getting an easy basket. The Blazers have 12 points so far in the quarter and are missing some easy baskets. The tired legs might be starting to show here a little bit. Lillard has missed six in a row and his shots are looking short. Not sure how much the Blazers can let him rest to start the fourth. This was bound to happen with how depleted the Blazers are tonight. If Whiteside is healthy and Ariza is playing the Blazers probably win this game by 20 points, but instead they head into the fourth quarter up 89-88. They were outscored 30-17 in the third quarter. The team looked tired. Melo needs to make a few baskets in the fourth. Melo starts off the fourth-quarter passing up two open jumpers. He’s not feeling it and passing off now. That’s smart, but I’d like to see him knock down one to get some confidence. He then takes a shot through some tough Jordan Clarkson defense and misses his sixth straight shot. Utah has opened up an eight-point lead halfway through the fourth. The Blazers look flat and tired. This was bound to happen. After losing both Simons and Ariza for the game there just wasn’t going to be enough legs for the Blazers to hang tonight. The Blazers have missed a bunch of wide-open shots in the second half and yet they are still within striking distance. Gary Trent Jr. has four steals tonight, his fourth steal led to a big three by CJ McCollum. The Blazers get a stop and Dame hits a big three to tie the game at 112. The Blazers have no business being in this place of the game right now. Lillard has 42 points for the night. Donovan Mitchell gets a layup to put the Jazz up 116-114 with 19.5 seconds left. Lillard had a chance to tie the game, but Rudy Gobert goaltended the shot and the Jazz escape with a 117-114 win. Caleb Swanigan had a chance to tie the game as time expired, but his three barely missed. THIS IS GOALTENDING!!!! pic.twitter.com/w3qxAvMbmt — NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) February 8, 2020 The Blazers return home on Sunday to take on the Miami Heat.
Portland Trail Blazers
After that beatdown on Tuesday night to the Denver Nuggets, the Blazers have returned home to play the San Antonio Spurs. The two teams haven’t played in a couple months and they had a good couple of matchups in San Antonio. It looked like each team was going to blow out the other team in each contest, but somehow, the game was not decided until the final minute of the game. The Blazers ended up being quiet on the trade front. There was a rumor that a Karl-Anthony Towns and Jusuf Nurkic deal might have been in the works, but you know how rumors are. The Blazers only ended up moving Skal Labissiere to the Hawks for cash. This signals to me that both Nurk and Zach Collins are close to being back for the Blazers. In the first five minutes of the game, only Trevor Ariza was the sole starter to not score a point. He had a few good looks, but the shots were short each time. CJ McCollum came out strong and had seven early points. The last couple of games I wished he had started out stronger to take some pressure off Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside. That Dame and Whiteside two-man game is getting better week after week. I’m hoping Whiteside comes back next season on a reasonable deal to either start for Nurk or come off the bench or maybe start them together. LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be a huge issue tonight. He usually is against Portland. He has made a few threes and coming up with big rebounds and feeding other guys making threes. This gets the Spurs an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 35-27. The Blazers have not had very good ball movement so far in the game and they are not covering the three very well at all. The best pass of the game so far has been when Carmelo Anthony attacked the basket, got double-teamed, and found CJ in the corner for a wide-open three. There have been other times when they could have made a pass, but instead tried to force a shot or were late on the pass. The Blazers’ shots are close to going in. Can’t count how many shots have been halfway down in the first 14 minutes of the game and only to pop back out. San Antonio is really moving the ball well and Portland is having trouble tracking it. Portland seems flat and they shouldn’t. The starters haven’t played in almost 48 hours. It might be safe to say that Gary Trent Jr. has passed Anfernee Simons as the Blazers’ best bench player. I type that and half a second later Simons hits a gorgeous step-back three. CJ then adds a basket and the Blazers are only down, 41-39 now. It seems to be a thing between these teams to not quiet blow the other one out. I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of Caleb Swanigan, but I love his hustle. He’s pure basketball chaos. Mario Hezonja is getting minutes tonight over Nassir Little and I don’t like this move. Mario has been a net negative on both sides of the ball this year and Little has been improving in big strides the last couple of weeks. Little needs these minutes in big spots as the playoffs come around and also for next year. I love Mario, but he has lost a lot of confidence. Portland needs to send him down to the YMCA 50 and older league to run down some Portland gym rats and get that confidence back. Oh, I forgot about the ankle sprain for Little. That will explain it. The Blazers have been doing a good job on DeMar DeRozan tonight. He’s about the only Spur the Blazers are guarding well. Trey Lyles has four of five from three tonight and that’s all you need to know about the Blazers defensive effort tonight. Trevor Ariza gets a layup with a few seconds left in the half and the Blazers are down 60-59 going into the break. Into the third quarter, the Blazers are 7-22 from three and the Spurs are 9-18. The Spurs are closing out hard on pretty much all of the Blazers’ three-point shooters. When Dame goes to shoot a three LMA or Lyles is out there in his face and forcing him into tougher shots. Stotts needs to runs some sets that gets the lankier guys away from Dame on his shot. Let him pull up on Dejounte Murray or Patty Mills. Force the better matchups. The third has been such a back and forth match up. There have been combined 27 ties and lead changes so far. The defensive effort has gone away and the teams are just scoring back to back on each other. The Blazers bench had a great first half and they only have two points off a Swanigan layup. DeRozan has also picked it up and now has eighteen points. The Spurs push their lead up to six, 92-86 after three. Blazers had a hard time scoring at the end of the quarter. They didn’t look confident at all on the offensive end. Dame couldn’t get free looks, but his passes to open teammates were off. A Melo three and a CJ three-point play and the Blazers are right back in this thing. Caleb Swanigan hits a nice 17 footer and the Blazers are down a bucket. Patty Mills and Derrick White are working to keep the Blazers at bay, but Gary Trent Jr. knocks down another three to give the Blazers their first lead in a while. Carmelo Anthony had been shooting long most of the game, he made the adjustment and the ball is not even hitting the rim right now. It’s finding the bottom of the net. And man, what can you say about Trent. He’s been hot lately. Lillard hits a big three that pushes the Blazers lead to six, forcing Gregg Popovich to call a timeout. Moda is loud and loving the game. I could watch these two teams play all year. It’d be hard for this to end up being a seven-game series in April, but I’d be all for it. Gary Trent Jr. hits a bit three from the corner to put the Blazers up nine points. The Blazers now have two bench players in double scoring for the first time since March of 1974. Okay, it’s been sooner than that. Trent then adds a couple more threes, he has 18 on six of seven shooting from three. Lillard 26, Whiteside had 17-23-4, CJ had 19, Trent with 18, Melo with 20 and Ant with 10. The Blazers play Utah tomorrow night in Salt Lake.
It’s that time of the year when the Portland Trail Blazers are on fire and better than anyone else in the league. They have big wins over the Lakers and Jazz in the last week and are now facing off against the team that they’ve had a lot of trouble with this year, the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are without Blazer killer Paul Millsap and rookie sensation Michael Porter Jr. If my coverage is a little sparse tonight and sometimes a bit incoherent I’m battling a nasty chest infection. The Nuggets and Blazers are going to slug things out tonight by the looks of things. Hassan Whiteside has six points in the paint in the first six minutes of the game. Damian Lillard is in attack mode. He’s looking more to score in the paint over shooting threes tonight. He’s also working the midrange. He’s frustrating Nikola Jokic. Jokic is wanting a foul called at almost every possession on each end of the court. He’s killing the Blazers tonight. He has 12 points already and Whiteside is doing a great job of guarding him and not fouling. He goes for the block high but is staying straight up when guarding him. Nassir Little hits a three 10 seconds into his first trip out on to the court. His shot is looking so much better compared to a couple of months ago. He’s definitely the future at small forward. Hassan goes to the bench and the staff are looking at his left knee or calf. Hopefully, it’s not his achilles. That would not be good for the Blazers. He’s been a big part of the Blazers’ success in the last few weeks. Actually the whole season. He’s been the anchor on defense. He should be considered for defensive player of the year. Lillard is a man of fire tonight. He’s in attack mode. Going to church has brought the demons out of him. The Blazers do not close out the quarter well and are down by nine, 37-28. This might need to be a game that Dame plays 40 minutes. Cj McCollum has started off slow again and had zero first-quarter points. Also to note that Whiteside was in pain on the sideline. Having his left knee or calf looked at. The Nuggets are attacking the basket to start the second quarter and have three quick dunks. The game has been really physical to start out and the Blazers have been getting hammered. CJ decides he’s going to shoulder check Torey Craig into the first row and gets the flagrant foul. So now we know the threshold for the rest of the game. I thought it was a good foul because Dame has been body checked two rows deep and Little was audibly slapped in the head on a layup and nothing has been called. Oh boy, the Nuggets are just destroying the Blazers in most facets of the game tonight. They are getting killed on the defensive glass, Nuggets are getting to the glass at will, and that’s leading to wide open threes. They have held the Blazers to only six points nine minutes through the second quarter thus far. CJ is 1-7, Dame is 4-13, Melo is 0-3, the bench is a huge net negative. Maybe they need to make a win-now trade but keep Whiteside. Jerami Grant loves playing the Blazers, the Blazers do not love playing him. CJ has come out aggressive, but so has Denver. The Blazers really needed to come out hot and cut this lead down, but the lead has extended to thirty in the first few minutes of the third. Carmelo Anthony fouls Jamal Murray pretty hard. Blazers definitely are not taking this lying down. This is the worst I’ve seen the Blazers play all year. They had been hot and I think they might have got a little in their head so maybe this loss will set things going forward. The Blazers offense did awaken in the third quarter, but their defense did not. Both teams scored 36 and the Blazers are down by 26 points at the end of the third quarter. Going to need a hell of a comeback in the fourth. Not sure they can outscore the Nuggets by 27. Gary Trent Jr. is in double digits again. Anfernee Simons has been kind of cold recently. I think Trent is going to be a player in the league. A nice role player and will help out the Blazers big time next year. The starters didn’t play the fourth quarter and the Blazers take on the Spurs on Thursday night at home.
The Blazers return home after a quick stop in Los Angeles to take on LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers on a night that they honored the life of Kobe Bryant. Tonight Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz are in town. The Jazz are the second best team in the Norwest behind the Denver Nuggets and are losers of three in a row. Carmelo Anthony is back in the lineup tonight after sitting out last night due to personal reasons. Kobe was one of his best friends so it is understandable. He should have fresh legs tonight as well. Mike Conley is also back for the Jazz tonight. He has been a huge disappointment for the Jazz so far this year, so this might be a good thing for the Blazers tonight. The Jazz won the only previous matchup back in December. Bojan Bogdanovic starts off the game with a three and Conley looks like he did in Memphis and gets right by CJ McCollum for an easy layup. Donovan Mitchell is on fire early to start. His first three shots have not hit rim, they have barely hit net. They might want to put Trevor Ariza on him tonight. Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside are in sync with the high screen and rolls tonight. They have hit two lobs early in the game. Rudy Gobert is closing out on Dame because the man is on fire and there is no one to deal with Hassan Whiteside in the paint. Hassan has been playing some great ball lately, both offensively and defensively. He’s my defensive player of the year at this point in time. This game is moving fast. Defense is apparently going to be optional tonight. Utah is out running and getting easy shots and shooting 87.5% in the first six minutes of the game. The Jazz are an incredibly tough team to defend. They have shooters, they have a mid-range game, and they have a bunch of dudes who can finish in the paint. Mike Conley is on his game tonight. This might be the player that Utah thought they were getting in the trade. On the other end, Carmelo Anthony is being really aggressive tonight. He’s attacking whoever the Jazz throw at him. He’s put them into the spin cycle. Sadly, he’s been fouled a few times and calls have not been made. Conley hits another three and the Jazz are up 32-21 with a tad over three minutes left in the first quarter. Good thing I have an open bottle of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir tonight. Before I could swirl and take a drink the Blazers go on an 8-0 run, Gary Trent Jr.’s hot shooting continues, Lillard does a nifty behind the back reverse that left Ed Davis reeling, and then Dame throws a lob up to Nassir Little who grabbed the ball from the top of the backboard and dunked it. I knew Little had hops, but damn, that’s a lot of springs. He does it a few moments later. Hey! Rodney Hood is in the house for the first time since his injury. It’s good to see him up and about. The Blazers wrap up the first with a 12-0 run and trail only by one, 34-33. Lillard has 10 points and right now there is no better player in the league. He’s doing everything right now. Jordan Clarkson hits a three to open up the second period of play. The other night he had what felt like 30 points in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets. Clarkson has the ability to fill up the cup in a hurry. Anfernee Simons responds with a nice mid-range jumper. I’d love to see him attack this more. Carmelo gets a big board and a dunk to tie the game up at 39. It’s nice to see Caleb Swanigan back in Portland. he’s not the best player in the world, but his hustle is something that is going to be rewarded in Portland. He’s lost some weight and is more agile and has a quicker first step. Whiteside has three blocks in the game so far. I told you he’s the defensive player of the year. His third block came against Gobert which lead to a Trevor Ariza layup to give the Blazers a three-point lead. CJ had a strip of Bojan the play before which also led to an Ariza layup. A few years ago those would be dunks, but Ariza is like 40. Both Anfernee Simons and Trent have beautiful strokes and I’d like to see them take an old school approach and really work the mid-range game. They both have wide open 15-17 footers tonight that were pure. I think they could find some money there. Before Ray Allen became a deadly three-point shooter he was a deadly mid-range guy. Damian was too. Conley and Bojan are on fire tonight. Especially Conley. I think he’s found himself. The Jazz have been winning a lot without him in the 20 games he’s missed. If this is a sign of things to come then Donovan Mitchell has the second scorer he’s needed his first two years in the league. Plus Clarkson off the bench is deadly. I really like this Jazz team and they are going to be scary come playoff time. Even scarier in the playoffs is Logo Lillard. He has back to back threes, 18 points, and the entire state of Oregon loving him. Hell, I’m in SoCal and I love him. I think the man is revered worldwide at this point. The Blazers end the second quarter with another 12-0 run and have a ten point lead, 63-53 at the half. Lillard has 23 points and Whiteside has 8 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. CJ and Melo both have nine points, and the Blazers bench has been a bit exciting tonight. They are not filling up the stat sheet, but they are making some exciting plays. This man is on another level rn. 23 points, 3 threes, 6 assists in 17 minutes pic.twitter.com/fnVx5sqJmN — Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 2, 2020 Speaking of the bench, Nassir Little is for sure the plan at small forward going forward. I was going to say that Rodney Hood would probably stick around one more year before Little was anointed in this third season, but I’m thinking he might get the start next season. Lillard and Whiteside are really developing a nice chemistry with that screen and roll. It has been there almost all night against the defensive player of the year and it’s going to be there all year against any team. Dame is such a threat to score from anywhere on the floor that the natural thing to do is double-team him, but then it leaves Whiteside open for an easy dunk. The Blazers outside that screen and roll have been stagnant to start the third. Bojan and Conley have been hot though and the Jazz cut the lead down to three. Damian Lillard has answers though and has 36 points and is just on another level from the rest of the league. Carmelo Anthony wants to get his tonight too. I really like how he’s accepted his role as a third man with this team. He couldn’t do it in Houston or Oklahoma City, but there’s something special starting to happen with this Blazer chemistry. Whiteside is outhustling Gobert tonight and just flat out beating everyone to rebounds tonight. Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, and Damian Lillard hit back to back threes to push the Blazers lead to 91-73. I came into this game thinking it was a scheduled loss. All-day long this is a scheduled loss. But it’s that time of the year the Blazers start playing like the best team in all of the NBA. Not sure what it is about this team, but it’s like a yearly tradition. January rolls around the Blazers are struggling and then in four months they are a top-three seed and winning playoff series. The Jazz cut the Blazers lead down to 11 to end the third quarter. The third quarter ended very sloppily and I had to pour myself another glass of wine to watch it. Even though Damian has been the closer lately, I’d really like to see CJ McCollum have a big fourth quarter and close out the Jazz. I think everyone needs that type of game right now from him. He’s had a good, yet quiet season. He needs a big moment this year. Get him warmed up for the spring. Once again the Blazers offense stalls a little bit when Lillard is not on the floor. As I mentioned above this where we need CJ to install a little killer instinct and let Lillard have a bit more rest. The Blazers are going to need those legs come March and April. Plus, Simons working the mid-range game would also allow the Blazers to rest Lillard a little bit more. I love the energy that Melo is showing tonight. He’s dropping shoulders, driving to the basket, and getting to the line. Melo has also passed Kevin Garnett for 17th all-time on the NBA scoring list. The Blazers have pushed their lead back up to 18 again. Lillard hits his ninth three of the game, bringing his total to 47 for the night and the Blazers are up 18. Lillard is the next level right now. There’s no stopping him. Damian Lillard had 51 points and 12 assists, Hassan Whiteside had 17-21, Carmelo Anthony had 15, CJ had 14, Little and Simons each had 7 off the bench. Blazers head to Denver on Tuesday night to take on the Nuggets.
- Portland Trail BlazersPostgame reports
For the first time since the death of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers took the court against the Portland Trail Blazers. Being down in LA in the days after I’ve never seen the city more together and more unified. The love the entire city of Los Angeles, Southern California — hell, the world has shown for Kobe, Gianna, and the other seven people who perished on that mountainside on Sunday. The city is more lit up than the entire holiday of Christmas. There is more purple and gold all over Los Angeles than a victory parade. Usher did an amazing rendition of “Amazing Grace” as the start of the tribute to Kobe. Spotlights showed brightly on the retired jerseys of #8 and #24 up in the rafters of Staples. Ben Hong then played the background cello as a highlight video of Kobe played. Usher performs “Amazing Grace” during the Lakers’ tribute to Kobe. pic.twitter.com/NV88OpW5Uq &amp;amp;amp;mdash; ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020 I don’t know why, but this all feels way to surreal. It’s hard to imagine that Kobe Bryant is gone. I wasn’t a fan of Kobe growing up, but seeing him evolve from an arrogant kid to an amazing father and Oscar winner. Being a Sonics fan and watching him destroy the Sonics over and over again. Like the time he dropped the eight three-pointers (a record at the time) in the middle of his feud with Ray Allen. It’s time for the game. The Lakers win the tip and LeBron James takes the 24-second violation to start the game. Damian Lillard took the 8-second violation. There is this weird energy to start the game. The Lakers are definitely off. The building is pretty quiet to boot. I thought things would be a lot more raucous. A note that Carmelo Anthony did not travel with the team tonight as he is grieving still. Wenyen Gabriel got the start in his stead tonight. He’s playing really hard tonight. I’ve always liked this kid’s game. He will be a solid role player Lillard and CJ McCollum have started off the game by attacking the middle of the Lakers’ defense. Getting in and around the paint to make some easy baskets to get themselves an early lead. LeBron and Anthony Davis combine for a couple of dunks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hits a three to give the Lakers a 23-19 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. Nassir Little checks into the game and hits back to back threes. His shot has really been improving as the season has gone on. I knew he was raw and it’d take a little time for him to adjust to the speed of the game. He’s definitely the starting small forward of the future. He might not be a superstar, but I have a feeling he’s going to be really good. Anthony Davis has his shot dialed in. He has 18 points in the first quarter. He’s doing this with tears in his eyes. CJ McCollum knocks down a three and the Blazers have a two-point lead, 38-36 lead after one. The second quarter has not started well. It’s a lot like the start of the first quarter. Things are off. LeBron James outside of two dunks is not playing like the normal LeBron. He has six assists and is finding Dwight Howard abusing Caleb Swanigan in the paint for two of those. This second quarter has been pretty painful to watch. The Lakers have thrown no less than seven passes straight to the Blazers in the first half. It’s bad. It’s not like miscommunication either. It seems like they are deliberately passing the Blazers the ball. LeBron has missed a few easy layups too. Side note: What the hell is Kyle Kuzma doing with his hair? Now that Damian Lillard is back in the game the Blazers are scoring points again and have retaken the lead at 58-56. A crap call on Trevor Ariza allows Avery Bradley to sink two free throws to give the Lakers a 62-60 lead at the halftime. Blazers did a great job limiting what Anthony Davis did in the second quarter, holding him to only two points. There was a scary moment just before the half where Davis did block a Damian Lillard shot. Lillard went hard to the ground and looked like his head bounded off the court. Upon replay review, it didn’t, but he did land hard. We start the third quarter with a dunk by Hassan Whiteside for a dunk to tie the game at 62 and LeBron answers with a three. Wenyen Gabriel delivers a great hustle play that leads to Damian Lillard tying it up at 65. Man, Staples feels like a, and I’m sorry for saying this, a morgue. Logo Lillard has shown up in LA, he knocks down two long-range threes to get the Blazers a five-point lead. Mario Hezonja checks in and Terry Stotts puts him on Anthony Davis who scores seven of the next ten points of the game. Danny Green scored the other three thanks to a foul from Hezonja. I always want Hezonja to be good, he has the talent to be good. We have seen flashes of him being good. He got drafted top five. With about four minutes left in the third, he blows a wide-open layup. Like wide open and the ball wasn’t even remotely close to going in. The Blazers need to find someone to take Mario’s minutes at the deadline. Maybe we can get a little more Nassir Little. The refs are off in this quarter. Lillard got fouled hard on three straight possessions, twice going to the basket and he took a charge which was called a block. He then got mad. Like real mad. How mad? oh my goodness. pic.twitter.com/34AAzQNMCj — Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 1, 2020 That’s how mad he got. He then got a four-point play and hit another three to give the Blazers another lead. At this point, he has 23 points in the quarter and 42 for the game. He has erupted since he got the technical foul. The Lakers have resorted to triple-teaming him as soon as he comes across the halfcourt line. This allows for Gary Trent Jr. to get a wide-open shot from 16 feet and the Blazers are the first to 100. The Blazers take a 103-96 lead into the fourth quarter. The lead should have been bigger, but a dumb play by Swanigan allowed Davis to get a four-point play and Kyle Kuzma (and his stupid hair) is killing the Blazers on the offensive glass. What we have learned, well should have learned is not to make Damian Lillard mad. My wife says Portland is being a little rude beating up on the Lakers in the game. Blazers push their lead up to 12 in the first three minutes of the fourth. The Lakers continue to look out of sorts. It’s not like they had been playing all that great before the death of Kobe Bryant. Pope, Kuzma and LeBron James have cut the lead down to three. Damian Lillard is now back in the game. This is a typical Blazers game this year. They have not been able to sustain leads when Lillard is on the bench. You know the other team is going to make a run when Dame is on the bench. You just hope it’s not too big and Lillard has enough gas to finish out the game. Hassan Whiteside is having another quiet 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five block night. He’s been so solid for the Blazers this year. He should be the defensive player of the year. Kyle Kuzma has been a menace all night for the Lakers. He’s been the biggest reason that the Lakers are not down more than twenty in the fourth. Anthony Davis is having a big scoring night, but Kuzma is making all the big rebounds and getting crucial baskets. The Lakers kept making plays to get themselves back into the game, but the Blazers always had an answer. A Hassan Whiteside fadeaway 15-foot baseline jumper put the Blazers up 125-117 with 52 seconds remaining. Lillard puts the Blazers up 10 with 30 seconds left to seal the win. Damian Lillard 48 points, 10 boards, and nine assists, Whiteside had 30, 12, and five, CJ had 19, and Gary Trent Jr. had 10 off the bench. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 37.
The Portland Trail Blazers (20-27, 10th in West) hosted the Houston Rockets (29-17, 5th in West) at the Moda Center Wednesday night. The Blazers defeated the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night behind another stunning performance from Damian Lillard. Portland’s eight-year point guard earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors last week for his insane performances against the Warriors, Mavericks, and Pacers. Date Points FGs 3s FTs Assists Rebounds Result vs. Opponent Mon. 1/20/20 61 17/37 11/20 16/16 7 10 W 129-124 vs GSW Thurs. 1/23/20 47 16/28 8/15 7/7 8 6 L 125-133 vs DAL Sun. 1/26/20 50 14/23 8/12 14/16 13 6 W 139-129 vs IND Averages: 52.7 15.7/29.3 9.0/15.7 12.3/13 9.3 7.3 – Dame has one of the highest ceilings in the league, and it would be especially exciting to see him have another gargantuan night against his greatest nemesis, Russell Westbrook. The last time Russ played in Portland, he posted a solid night of 29pts, 14ast, and 11reb. He was as braggadocios as ever and, ironically, it took a 50-point performance and a bad shot by Dame to shut him up. But it’s a new season now. Westbrook is on a new team, and that team’s been doing pretty well. The Rockets are currently fifth in the Western Conference and have won three of their last four, with the only blemish coming to the Nuggets on the road. They had a big win against the Utah Jazz last night—without Russ, MVP candidate James Harden, or starting center Clint Capela—in which Eric Gordon (of all people) scored 50 points. I’m excited for this matchup. The Rockets have become one of Portland’s biggest rivals in the past few years. Adding Westbrook to that mix only strengthens mutual hate. Both teams are at an odd crossroads in their seasons, with Dame looking to turn things around for the Blazers and Houston trying to regain their footing in the Playoff standings. Injury Report Harden has been inactive for the past two games with a left thigh contusion, and he is still questionable tonight. So is Capela. Nene and Gerald Green are both out for the Rockets. Westbrook’s absence from the Jazz game was due to rest, so he’ll be fully available tonight. In case you needed a painful reminder—Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, and Jusuf Nurkic are all out for Portland. First Quarter Well, I heard Dave Pasch’s voice and was hoping for Bill Walton to be on the call, but I guess I’ll settle for the second-most over-hated announcer in basketball—Doris Burke. Whiteside had a pair of disappointingly low-effort plays, letting an Eric Gordon brick bounce in front of him and allowing the ball to be stripped from behind on a simple screen on the other end, gifting Houston four points. Portland’s offense was depressing in the early going. The Blazers had more turnovers than points in the first few minutes. Westbrook is pissed tonight. He made one shot on Lillard, rocked the baby, and got a couple big blocks early. The jaw-ing continued as he mounted a couple assists and Dame heaved a rare bricked thirty-footer. Lillard came down the court and scored a hard-earned and-one two possessions later, muttering what we can assume were some choice words for Westbrook as he flexed. Harden and Lillard swapped signature splashes, but Ben McLemore led all scorers near the end of the first, with 12 points from four buckets. Then Dame hit two straight threes, lifting his total to 16. Portland fought hard in the first quarter, but Houston’s 60% from three gave them a six-point advantage at the end of the first. Second Quarter The quarter began with Portland milking the Melo-on-Gordon matchup in the post, earning five points from it on three possessions. A couple possessions later, Carmelo moved up to 17th on the all-time scoring list, passing Kevin Garnett. Westbrook was working Nassir Little while CJ upped his usage on the other end. The Blazers cut the lead to 2 at the 7:06 mark, but Ariza committed an odd technical almost immediately after. Dame checked back in as the Rockets started to cool off. Gary Trent Jr. hit his second three to give Portland a four-point lead with 5:23 remaining. It would be great if Trent can continue to stretch the floor going forward this season, because he gets a ton of open looks with any combination of Dame, Melo, and CJ on the court. Dare I say, the Blazers look like a team to be reckoned with when they can hold their own on defense, and the return of three injured big men can’t be overlooked as we stretch for the playoffs. Dame took over on offense. As Burke noted, he had two great assists sandwiching a trailing three after a steal from Trent on Harden. Blazers 60, Rockets 51 at the 4-minute mark in the 2nd. Lillard with 21 on 7/9. Westbrook had a notable push-off against Gary Trent that was called a defensive foul, but Stotts’ challenge overturned this to make it an offensive foul against Russ. Whiteside had a pair of great blocks on Westbrook, but Houston finally hit a three after going nearly four minutes without a field goal. Portland continued to leave the far corner open on defense to double Harden, but Lillard continued to drive past Harden on defense. A pair of dunks put the Blazers up to 71 points with an 11-point lead at the half. Portland entered the break shooting 55.6% from the field and 14/18 from the free throw line, compared to Houston’s 48% and 1/3 from the line. Westbrook accumulated a quiet 19pts/4ast/5reb and Lillard had a loud 25/5/5. Both teams had eight turnovers. Third Quarter The second half admitted itself in an odd fashion. Both teams committed multiple bonehead turnovers and missed point-blank shots. PJ Tucker got called for a technical foul, Dame missed the free throw, and Capela lost a shoe. The Rockets were the first to recover, but Ariza struck back to preserve the 11-point cushion. Whiteside made great plays on both ends, swatting his sixth and seventh blocks and picking up a loose ball to score two more. Dame’s skip pass into a CJ three extended the lead to 83-67 with 5:49 left in the quarter. HUSTLE PLAY ALERT: Dame crossed up his defender and himself, losing the ball. Carmelo got dirty and dug it out to Ariza, who buried the open three. The Blazers made more high-effort plays, but the Rockets were also blowing layups and taking poor shots. All this was largely without Lillard’s scoring, as he didn’t earn his first points of the 3rd until there were less than two minutes left. He then followed that fadeaway with a pull-up closer to half-court than the three-point arc. Fittingly, Westbrook bricked his own pull-up as the quarter expired. Blazers 97, Rockets 82. That being said, Houston’s supporting cast hit a few big shots to keep them within shouting distance. If the Rockets succeed in the playoffs, it’ll be because of guys like Austin Rivers, Danuel House Jr., or Ben McLemore stepping up. Fourth Quarter The game got pretty chippy to open up the 4th, but the Blazers nurtured their lead to 20. Westbrook got angry after a foul request was ignored. Sometimes that’s a good thing for the opponent, but in this case he broke free for a swift transition layup and a neat assist to Rivers. Dame put the game away from the logo with six minutes left. He also assisted Whiteside for a pair of and-ones. Harden, Westbrook, and Mike D’Antoni were still fighting for fouls and points, but all it did was keep me up even later into the Eastern time zone night.
- Portland Trail BlazersPostgame reports
Let me start tonight’s recap by mourning the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant; as well his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. For my generation, Kobe was more than just an accomplished player—he was a cultural icon that sparked a massive love for the game of basketball. It is with heavy hearts tonight that we enjoy the game he gave so much to. Players, coaches, fans, and everyone across the NBA and sports community mourned the loss of a true competitor earlier today. Starting Lineups Portland Trail Blazers (19-27): Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside Indiana Pacers (30-16): TJ McConnell, JaKarr Sampson, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, Myles Turner McCollum returned to the fold for Portland after missing the last three game with an ankle injury against Dallas nine days ago. The Pacers are still without star shooting guard Victor Oladipo, who is expected to make his long-awaited return on Wednesday. First Quarter As in other games around the association today, the Blazers started tonight’s matchup with a 24-second shot clock violation, followed by an 8-second violation from the Hornets; paying tribute to Bryant’s jersey numbers. The Trail Blazers looked motivated early, jumping out to a quick 14-5 run against former Portland head coach Nate McMillan &amp; Co. in the first few minutes. Lillard pushed the Blazers to a nine-point first quarter lead behind 17 points and 5 assists, including making his first four shots. Second Quarter Jermaine O’Neal, who was the 17th overall pick by the Blazers in 1996 and later a six-time all-star with the Pacers, was interviewed during the second quarter by Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd. O’Neal, who was self-described as “really close with Kobe,” discussed his relationship with the Black Mamba and developing his basketball venture on the live broadcast. During the interview, the Pacers cut the lead to six after a breakaway dunk by Justin Holiday. The Blazers powered back offensively, though, finishing the half with 66 points and a 10-point lead. Notable first half stats included 23pts, 9ast from Lillard; 15pts from McCollum; 18pts on 7/9 from Sabonis; and 10pts on 3/4 3PM from Doug McDermott. There was still a dark cloud hanging over this game, though, noted by the frequent references to Kobe’s life and career and extensive studio coverage of the news during pregame halftime, and postgame shows. Third Quarter Portland pushed the lead to 13 by the eight and a half minute mark in the third quarter behind consecutive 3s from Dame and CJ. The former is still out here making audacious three-point shots on the nightly, something that’s pretty much regular to us by now. Portland’s passing was on another level tonight, and it really heated up in the third—the highlight being Dame’s nifty behind-the-back pass to set up 2 points for Whiteside. Dame crossed the 34-point mark for the fifth straight game on the second to last possession of the quarter. Fourth Quarter Portland start letting Indiana back into the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Pacers cut the lead to eight with as many minutes left. They also benefitted from a pair of puzzling missed calls, the first coming as Caleb Swanigan was run into on an inbounds pass and the second from a shove on Lillard by McConnell. The frustration got to Dame, which is actually a good thing for him. He nailed a signature deep three off a screen in response to yet another non-call, causing McMillan to call time. Lillard finally got a call with 5:11 to go in the game, but certainly paid the price. He was hit in a certain tender area by Warren, emulating loud gasps throughout the Moda Center after each replay. The play was reviewed and a flagrant was given for unnecessary contact. Lillard turned the two free throws into a five-point play, giving him 44 points on the night. 47 came one possession later. McDermott continued to hit big shots, but he was no match for Dame. The scariest part about The Letter O’s performance was that he did it so casually. Hassan Whiteside has been really impressive night on defense tonight. He earned his sixth block with just over four minutes to go. The starting center also added 21 points and 14 rebounds, including six from the offensive glass. Final Thoughts In the midst of a tragic day, the Blazers put together one of their most impressive showings of the season—against an impressive team, no less. The Ariza addition looks to be paying dividends. His genuine three-point threat stretched the floor for the offense, which seemed to get the best out of all five starters. But it always helps when Dame’s in full takeover mode. Portland’s point guard finished with 50, 13, and 6. He now has an insane 158 points over the last three games. The Blazers now get two days of full rest before hosting the Houston Rockets (28-16) on Wednesday night. Final lines Portland Dame – 50p/13a/6r on 14/23FG, 8/123PM, and 14/16FT CJ – 28p/5a on 11/21FG Melo – 14p Hassan – 21p/14r/6b on 9/11FG Indiana Lamb – 28p on 10/15FG McDermott – 19 on 6/11FG Sabonis – 27p/11a/14r