Posts Tagged ‘Damian Lillard’

Blazers in hole, need to dig deeper

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

VIDEO: The GameTime guys preview Game 3 between the Spurs and Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dig deeper.

That’s the answer for the Trail Blazers, even though they’re already standing in an 2-0 hole.

LaMarcus Aldridge says they’ve got to play better. Damian Lillard says they have to play harder.

“Everybody has to play better, starting with me,” Aldridge said.

“It’s going to be tough, but we have confidence in what we can do on our home floor,” said Lillard.

But as the Western Conference semifinal series resumes tonight with Game 3, the Blazers will have to go deeper into their suspect bench with reserve guard Mo Williams sidelined by a groin injury.

“We anticipate that he will not play,” said coach Terry Stotts.

Portland is a young team, with no starter older than 28, but even young teams can get worn down. The Blazers compensate for a water-thin collection of reserves by playing their starters more, with three of them averaging at least 41 minutes in the playoffs and another logging 39 per night.

Williams suffered the injury in the Game 6 close-out win over Houston in the first round and labored to shoot just 3-for-11 with four turnovers in Game 1 against the Spurs. In Game 2, Williams played just under nine minutes before the injury flared up again and he was forced to the bench.

For a team that is being overwhelmed by San Antonio’s depth — the Spurs regularly use 10 players — and with Lillard already up to 43.3 minutes per game in the playoffs, the loss of Williams is significant.

“I would assume that Earl [Watson] will get some minutes and Will Barton will get some playing time,” Stotts said. “With Mo averaging his 24 minutes, some of them are at point guard and some of them are alongside Damian. His 24 minutes will kind of be spread out among at least two or three other players.

Barton was on the court for less than 90 seconds total in the entire first-round series win over the Rockets, but has played 20 minutes in two games against the Spurs. In Game 2 on Thursday night, he shot 5-for-5 for 13 points in 12 minutes and during the second quarter was the often the only Blazer who was on the attack offensively.

“Will comes in ready,” Stotts said. “He loves to be on the court and I think that showed when he made his first two shots in maybe a minute of being on the court.”

Snakes alive! Spurs squeeze Blazers

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

VIDEO: Spurs stifle Blazers in Game 2

SAN ANTONIO – It was the middle of the second quarter and the Blazers’ biggest offensive weapon had finally found a clear path to the basket.

LaMarcus Aldridge slammed his dunk attempt off the back iron.

On the next trip down the floor, Aldridge took another feed, had another open path to the hoop.

And clanked another dunk.

Snakes in the Portland locker room. Snakes on the rim.

When the Blazers eventually slithered out of the AT&T Center on the wrong end of another clubbing, they probably didn’t feel bitten by a viper as much as squeezed breathless by a powerful boa constrictor.

Aldridge can’t find room to move in the low post. Damian Lillard can’t find enough opportunities to work his shimmy-shake magic. Wes Matthews can’t find anything to do except toss up his arms in frustration and plead his case to referees. The numbers on a map say it’s just 200 miles between Houston and San Antonio, but the Blazers have discovered the brand of basketball might as well come from opposite sides of the planet.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Rockets’ played one-on-one. Now the Spurs play all-as-one.

In the first round, the Rockets played with frantic, nervous energy. Now the Spurs play with the quiet, deadly hum of high voltage power lines.

In the first round, the Rockets often treated the fourth quarters and the final minutes of games as something to give away. “Here, take this.” Now the Spurs treat the opening quarters of games as time to simply smack the Blazers and bloody their noses. “Here, take that.”

At this rate their stock is dropping faster than Johnny Football’s. Maybe even the Cleveland Browns wouldn’t take a gamble on the Blazers.

For a Portland team that just four days ago was still celebrating the first playoff series win for the franchise in 14 years, this has been a step up in class like going from kindergarten to quantum mechanics. While Houston poked and prodded and tweaked and adjusted a defensive plan to try to turn down the heat from the boiling concoction that was Aldridge, the Spurs have turned to Tiago Splitter and told him to be the lid on the pot. He bumps Aldridge. He grinds Aldridge. He bangs Aldridge. He flusters Aldridge. And then Splitter gets help in close to the basket from Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard and anybody else who just feels like taking a swipe or throwing shoulder.

“I missed two dunks and four or five layups,” Aldridge said after a 6-for-23 shooting night and just 16 points. “If those shots go in, then the whole game is different.”

And if pigs had wings, it would be tougher for us to catch that bacon.

It’s never a good thing when coach Terry Stotts is pointing out the highlights of not giving up any fast break points and holding the other guys to just 44 points in the second half. Not when his team gave up 70 points and trailed by 19 at halftime.

On one hand, all the Spurs have done is held the home-court advantage as they now head out to Portland. On the other hand, the Blazers have held the lead for a grand total of 16 seconds in two entire games of playoff basketball.

These are not the Spurs who looked disinterested and disjointed through the first six games against Dallas in the previous round. Now they are back to rolling up and down the court like a road grader, flattening anything in their path. Their deepest-in-the-NBA bench is back. So is their swagger. Manu Ginobili throwing football-style touchdown passes to Leonard on the break. Boris Diaw doing the Jell-O roll through the paint to drop in the kind of shot that was so tasty it made you want to lick the spoon.

These are not the Blazers who looked like the poised ones down the stretch against the discombobulated Rockets.

“No panic,” said the Blazers’ Nicolas Batum. “We know we’ve done bad the last two games.”

On the bright side, nobody was bitten.

24-Second thoughts — May 8

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: HT fave Jamal Crawford collects another KIA Sixth Man of the Year trophy

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While NFL fans wait around for the start of their beloved draft, we hoops lovers are already engrossed in Game 2 of the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

You can have Johnny Football, that Jadeveon Clowney fella and the draft that never ends (in the NBA we go 60-men deep, that’s it). I’m rocking with the round ball tonight.

Give me LeBron James and Paul Piece, Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard in the nightcap when the Spurs and Trail Blazers get it on in Game 2 of their conference semifinal showdown.

I don’t care how choppy it is early, still waiting for someone to knock down a shot here, I’m sticking to NBA basketball tonight …

(I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t intrigued by this one wrinkle, though. The prospects choosing their walk-up song is a splendid idea. The fact that we already know which song each guy has chosen steals just a little bit of the thunder. But I love the idea and wouldn’t mind if the NBA poached it come Draft night next month.)

Oh and big ups to my main man Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers on winning KIA Sixth Man of the Year honors for the second time in his career. Well deserved honor for one of our faves around here.

24 – For all of my anti-NFL draft hype, this one didn’t exactly start with fireworks. Brutal start for both teams in the early going. no one wanted to score, or even hold on to the ball, for that matter.

23 – We’re two hours from tip in San Antonio and already there is more action than we’ve seen from the Heat offense, which has produced just 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting (1-for-8 from deep) after the first 12 minutes.

22 – Nets guard Shaun Livingston slipped on a wet spot under the basket early and I missed the replay. He kept playing, so I didn’t think it was that serious. It didn’t hit me until a few minutes later that when you hear the words “Shaun Livingston” and “slipped under the basket” you can’t help but freak out. Glad it wasn’t anything serious. He’s one of my favorite players. Loved his game coming out of high school. He’s the embodiment of the power of perseverance. We were all robbed of what he might have been …

21 – Why don’t we just let Rashard Lewis and Mirza Teletovic play a game of H-O-R-S-E  to decide this thing …

20 – Sorry LeBron, but we don’t always get what we want …

But you did get it cranked up the closer we got to halftime …

19 – Joe Johnson scores on an isolation play and ESPN’s Mike Tirico talks about his nickname in Atlanta being “Iso Joe.” My memory could be a bit shaky, but I swear I coined that nickname when I was the beat writer for the Hawks. Seriously, I think that’s one of mine. I wonder if the url is already taken?


VIDEO: Who’s hotter than Teletovic in the first half? 

There are other Nets stars in the crosshairs at halftime, though, K.G. and D-Will in particular …

18 – Welcome to San Antonio folks …

17 – The battle of the role players continues with Teletovic ballin’ out for the Nets and Ray Shuttlesworth doing the honors for the Heat. We can watch this all night …

16 – There has been a breakout of happy feet in these playoffs. I was going to refrain from bringing it up, until my favorite WNBA player went and did this …

This is a nutty game. Watching some of these elder statesmen battle each other as much as they’re battling Father Time can be painful at times. KG missing wide open jump hooks and D.Wade walking the ball up the court and passing up open shots repeatedly …

Too bad the game isn’t the story of the night. The NFL draft is a role player, too. This is the night of the snake …

14 – BALLGAME!!!! The Heat just finished off a 100-second possession (they got three offensive rebounds) with a LeBron layup to push the lead to 89-79. Nets vets moving like those zombies on the Walking Dead …

13 – Ray Ray was fabulous. And the Heat did what you expect a championship team to do. But D-Will’s 0-for-everything shooting night sticks out to me as the most glaring item of the night.


VIDEO: Some sounds of the game for you from these #NBAPlayoffs

12 – Always figured TP for more of a win guy, being from France and all …

11 – Still no sign of the team willing to take the leap and pick Johnny Manziel. #struggleface …

10 – What is it with Lillard and these buzzer beaters?


VIDEO: Dame Lillard loves to beat the buzzer!

Portland faring much better tonight and they’re still down after the first 12 minutes. Thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s relentless assault. Don’t let the #tbt cornrows fool you, KLeonard is the future of the San Antonio Spurs  …

9 – Crusty old Spurs, huh?

8 – I love the fight in these Trail Blazers. They’re getting cracked in the face and still pressing the action. #betterbasketballclinicfromthespurs …

#nosleeptilbrooklyn for the Heat and Nets

7 – The Spurs’ second quarter burst was a thing of beauty, coordinated chaos and fury from the crew that’s supposed to be boring but has been anything but so far …

– #nomorejohnnyfootballjokes

Johnny Football is a Cleveland Brown with the 22nd pick, joining Kyrie Irving as one of the professional sports saviors of Northeast Ohio!

6 – The KLeonard walk off interview at halftime was quality stuff. He’s every bit as no-frills as his coaches and teammates insist. And the #tbt cornrows got some prime time love. That’s always a good thing …

5 – The power of the #NBAPlayoffs … you’re welcome Pit Bull!

4 –  See Roy Hibbert prior to Game 2 of Pacers-Wizards series …

3 – Young fella is 4-for-4 from deep and helping maintain control at a time when there is. Big 3!

2 – There’s a first time for everything …. especially in the playoffs!

1 – A fitting nugget to end with on “draft night” …


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard delivers the dagger that all but clinched Game 2 for the Spurs

Slowing Parker is job one for Blazers

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Can the Blazers bounce back in Game 2 vs. the Spurs?

SAN ANTONIO — Gregg Popovich knows a way to slow Tony Parker down. He sat him down for 19 days smack in the middle of the season.

It’s not quite that easy for the Trail Blazers, who have to figure job one in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals is to stop the Spurs’ All-Star point guard from running amok as he did in the series opener.

While all of the very deep San Antonio lineup washed over them like a sandcastle at the beach, it was Parker’s 33 points on 13-for-24 shooting that set the pace and kept the Blazers on their heels all night long.

Parker attacked Portland running the fast break and repeatedly pulled up to knock in mid-range jumpers as the Blazers’ defense concentrated on not letting him get to the rim.

According to the Blazers’ statistics, Parker shot 5-for-5 in the transition game and 8-for-12 when he was able to get into the paint.

“He’s going to get there sometimes,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “That’s what he does. We had him 5-for-12 on midrange shots. That’s a number we can live with. But 5-for-5 in transition, that’s a number we have to be better with.

“We have to keep the ball out of the middle as much as we can. The more we can keep him out of the paint, that takes away opportunities for him and his teammates.”

Those were opportunities that might have have come for the Spurs once more this springtime if Popovich hadn’t made the bold decision back on Feb. 10, following a loss at Detroit, to simply shut down his trigger man and leading scorer for nearly three weeks.

“I thought he was more mentally tired than physically tired,” Popovich explained. “He needed time away. No more shootarounds, no more game plans, the whole ball of wax. He just needed to shut down from it all.”

What looks like a perfectly logical move with a 31-year-old who is expected to carry so much of the offensive burden, was not exactly one that Parker swallowed easily. After all, Popovich did not take the same tack with 38-year-old Tim Duncan or 36-year-old Manu Ginobili.

“I [thought] it was too long,” Parker said. “At the same time, I trust Pop. He did a great job with me, Timmy, with Manu, managing us during the year to make sure we stay fresh for the playoffs. You can see the results.”

Including his Game 7 close-out performance in the first round over Dallas, Parker has rung up back-to-back 30-point games after hitting that level just three times during the entire regular season and appears energized.

The Spurs frequently ran Parker off picks against the Blazers and got him the open looks at the basket.

“I’m supposed to provide support,” said Portland center Robin Lopez, who stayed at home to guard the paint. “We’re encouraging him to take mid-range shots. Tony hit a few. In the best of all worlds, we’d be forcing everybody baseline.”

Parker was guarded during the game by Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews. While the preference for Stotts may be to use the length of the 6-foot-9 Batum on Parker, making that shift would force the Blazers to be undersized in their other matchups against Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

“If you take Nic off Leonard, it opens things up for Kawhi and shifts everything down,” Stotts said. “But we’ve done things like that in the past. We have to be able to make those changes and subsequent adjustments.”

Which leaves the dilemma of how to slow Parker?

“You have to be physical with him, like Wes did at the end of the game,” Batum said. “Wes pushed him fullcourt. That’s what you have to do.”

Morning Shootaround — May 8



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Whose house? Russell’s house! | Blazers have to prove they can hang with Spurs | Hibbert feeds off of positive vibes from teammates, mentors | Heat always ready for “lineup Twister”

No. 1: Round 2 of an epic point guard battle goes to Russell Westbrook: Chris Paul fired the first shot in Game 1. Russell Westbrook‘s response … whew! After spending the opener as a guest on his own floor, Westbrook made it clear whose house it was with a wicked Game 2 effort, finishing with a triple-double* that helped lift the Thunder. Before things head for Hollywood for Games 3 and 4, Westbrook took his star turn. Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman has the details:

Russell Westbrook made it clear early that Game 2 was going to be different.

On the first possession of the night, he snagged a steal, then in the process of gathering the ball and heading up court, he ran counterpart Chris Paul into an official. It was whistled a foul on Paul. Then, Westbrook got an offensive rebound and drew a foul on Blake Griffin. Then, he dished an assist to Kevin Durant.

The game was less than a minute old, but the Thunder point guard was already filling the stat sheet.

Setting the tone, too.

“I think Russell probably played harder than all of us combined,” Paul said. “He was all over the place.”

On a night when the Thunder needed to win on home hardwood and even up this Western Conference semifinal – and did just that with a 112-101 victory — Westbrook made sure that this series turned around. He scored. He rebounded. He assisted. He defended. He hounded.

In the process, Westbrook notched his third triple-double of these playoffs.

No other player has even one triple-double in this postseason.

Roll that around in your head a minute. Westbrook 3, rest of the NBA 0.

His triple-double numbers: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. He became the fifth player in the last 25 seasons with three or more triple-doubles in one postseason. The others: Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo.

Westbrook added three steals and plenty of defensive headaches for the Clippers. What’s more, Westbrook contained Paul, who managed only 17 points and 11 assists. Maybe that seems like a lot, but compared to what he did in Game 1, the damage was minimal.

Two nights after Paul dominated this matchup with eight three-pointers, 32 points and a career night, Westbrook showed that he wasn’t going to back down. Yes, Paul is great. Sure, he might be the best point guard on the planet.

Then again, maybe not.

The point guard battle royale is back on.

And it is because Westbrook went right at Paul. He drew that foul on the opening possession. Then, he just kept coming. He crashed the boards. He looked for contact. He drove to the basket. For as good as Paul is, he’s more jitterbug than bruiser, and with Westbrooks height and size advantage, he used that to his advantage.

Less than halfway through the first quarter, Paul picked up foul No. 2 and had to go to the bench.

“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said, “but you get two bad fouls early in the game … it makes it that much tougher.”

(more…)

Spurs’ MVP beauty more than skin deep

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Parker leads Spurs to Game 1 rout of Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO – They gave out the Kia MVP award earlier in the day.

Kevin Durant over LeBron James in the ultimate 1-on-1 beauty contest.

But the Spurs have never been ones for strutting their stuff down the runway.

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker finished in a tie for 12th place.

“I can’t wait to tell them,” said their coach Gregg Popovich.

There was no need for him to tell the Trail Blazers, who were on the wrong end of a 116-92 clubbing in the opener of the Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night.

The Spurs, of course, have been running an entirely different kind of race for years, one that never quite looks right in a bikini.

This is not the way championship teams are supposed to be constructed in the NBA, a league that has always been built on individual stars who are able to hoist entire teams up on their backs.

Mikan. Russell. Kareem. Bird. Magic. Isiah. Michael. Shaq. Kobe. Wade. Dirk. LeBron.

But here are the Spurs winning a league-best 62 in the regular season while trying their damnedest to look a basketball version of the Rockettes, one huge chorus line where it’s the high kick of the collective that most impresses.

“That’s a championship team,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, the star of a team celebrated for getting out of the first round for the first time in 14 years. “They came out with more energy than we did. They threw the first punch on both ends of the floor.”

That’s because the Spurs have been throwing punches in these postseason situations since only what seems like the dawn of time. Duncan alone has played more playoff games (219) than the entire Portland franchise.

“They did what championship teams do,” said Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. “Most of the guys on (our) team haven’t even been in the second round and they’ve won championships. They’ve been here. I think they definitely came out and let us know how it’s going to be.”

That is, like playing an octopus armed with a set of butcher knives.

While Parker grabbed the spotlight in Game 1 with 33 points and nine assists, this is not his wagon to pull. Not alone. Not all by himself through the long playoff grind.

Parker is the match, but the fire comes from a Spurs lineup that burns deeper than any other in the league.

Perhaps the only team in NBA history to win a championship without a truly singular star was the 2004 Pistons. Ben Wallace was their highest finisher in MVP voting that year. Wallace was 10th. Yet he, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace took down the mighty Lakers.

The Spurs have taken that approach one step further, spreading the wealth and conserving their energy all season long in order to be fit and ready for this charge.

Not a single player on the Spurs roster averaged 30 minutes this season. Parker was tops at 29.4.

The Spurs had nine different players who averaged at least 8.2 points and nobody higher than 16.7.

No stars? Tell that to the Blazers, who were seeing them before the end of the first quarter.

This was a Portland team that went into Houston to open the first round of the playoffs and arrogantly rearranged the furniture in winning the first two games on the road. On this night, they were lost, befuddled, hopelessly overmatched.

“They play your plays,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They knew where and what we were going to do. They did what all teams do in the playoffs.”

The Spurs just do it better.

All that angst and worry when they were pushed to seven games in the first round by the No. 8 Mavericks.

Too slow, too old, too tired?

So in the past two games, San Antonio has averaged 117.5 points, won by an average of 23.5, shot 54 percent from the field and 42.5 percent on 3-pointers.

The Spurs’ defense bodied up Lillard and kept him from doing damage in the paint, kept a lid on Aldridge early and never let the Blazers grow an ounce of confidence.

By the second quarter, the little-used Kiwi-by-birth, Australian-by-passport Aron Baynes was tossing around Portland like throw pillows and the Spurs never let the Blazers get closer than 20 at any time in the last 28 minutes of the game.

When Parker capped off his night with one especially dazzling spin drive, drew a foul and stood at the free throw line late in the third quarter, the home crowd rose with the obligatory chant: “MVP! MVP!”

By that time, it had already been given to someone else who doesn’t play for the Spurs.

Don’t bother to tell them.

24-Second thoughts — May 6

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Kevin Durant’s emotional MVP nod to his mother

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What a day!

Kevin Durant wins his first KIA MVP, dethroning the two-time defending champion LeBron James just hours before his Heat hit the floor against the Brooklyn Nets in their eastern conference semifinal.

The Golden State Warriors sever ties with Mark Jackson after three seasons, firing him after three straight seasons that saw the Warriors finally claw their way into the consistent playoff mix in the Western Conference.

And the NBA announced that Los Angeles Clippers President Andy Roeser would take an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately.  “This will provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances,” NBA VP of Communications Mike Bass said in a statement released by the league.

We got all of this before Ray Allen showed up to America Airlines Arena for his early afternoon shooting workout, so you had to know it was going to be a wild night …

24 – Oh and before we get started, big ups to CJ Paul for his Happy Birthday shout out to his baby brother Chris Paul. #TaurusPower #brotherskeeper

23 – When you have two teams like Miami and Brooklyn, teams with, ahem, elder statesmen galore, you should expect the rotations to run deep for both Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Nets coach Jason Kidd

22 – Perhaps the most underrated story of the late regular season and the start of the playoffs is that Dwyane Wade seems to have gotten his old bones healthy enough to be, well, Dwyane Wade …

https://twitter.com/EthanJSkolnick/status/463825355862573057


VIDEO: Check out Kevin Durant accepting his KIA MVP award


21 – Magic Johnson playing agent for Mark Jackson, you know this has been an upside-down day …

20 – Joe Johnson and Deron Williams doing it like you’re supposed to on the road. The pace of this one is exactly what the Nets are looking for. And LeBron’s playing well but he’s not nearly as dominant as you’d like to see him if you’re a Heat fan. Very reminiscent of some of his previous battles against Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-led teams …

19 – Pacers big man Roy Hibbert should thank his lucky stars for teammates like Paul George and George Hill. They’re holding him down at a time when plenty of folks would run for the hills, if they had hills in Indianapolis. Do them a favor big fella and show up tomorrow night in Game 2 against the Wizards …

18 – I knew the pace of this game wasn’t going to be Clippers-Thunder, or anything close to it, but wow! Only one fast-break bucket in 24 minutes?

17 – Heat playing bully ball. LeBron getting whatever he wants in the paint. Shaun Livingston, as much as I love him and his comeback, is locked in an unfair fight.

16 – Did someone say Billy Knight?

15 – We need LeBron mic’d up more often …

14 – No more Birdman tonight. Right knee contusion. Heat will be fine without him. They’re rolling the Nets right now.

13 — This wasn’t a contest. The Heat were the far superior team. Rest worked just fine for the Heat. #NoRust And LeBron had an easy time of it, way too easy, if the Nets are going to make this series interesting. KG being held scoreless for the first time in 139 career playoff games … wow!


VIDEO: LeBron James keeps it classy after the Heat’s Game 1 rout of the Brooklyn Nets

12 – Spurs start 8-0 and remind us all that they’ve been doing this longer than half the Trail Blazers’ roster has been alive … not really, but it always feels that way when you see the Spurs schooling some upstart squad.

11 – Gone but not forgotten Dr. Jack Ramsay

10 – Euro step my … foot! Calling Manu Ginobili for traveling is like a holding call on an offensive lineman in football. You could blow that whistle on just about every snap if you wanted to. But you don’t, because it’s Manu!!!!!!

9 – Welcome to Role Player Tuesday, when guys like Shane Battier, Marco Belinelli and Aron Baynes — yes Aron Baynes — move into the spotlight after not being heard from in the first round. #baynesanymeansnecessary …

8 – The Conference Semifinals would like to apologize to the basketball world for not being nearly as intriguing and flat-out wacky, so far, as our wild and crazy cousin, the First Round!

7 – This is what they call Night School where I’m from. The Blazers are finding out the hard way … you don’t take any of the same mojo from one series to the next. Treat it like it’s brand new or you’ll get popped. Youngsters take notes for Game 2!

6 – Sure, it looks ugly now. Really ugly. Bubba Sparxxx Ugly! But I don’t think there is any need to overreact to the first half of the first game of a series, any series …

5 – Spurs are not messing around tonight. They’ve never made back-to-back trips to The Finals in the Duncan-Pop era. Would be an accomplishment this year, even for an outfit that has done just about everything else imaginable when it comes to winning …

4 – Reasons, the reasons that we hear, The reasons that we fear, Our feelings a-won’t disappear

3 – Game recognize game. And truly elite players know the MVP when they see him …

2 – Great point … even though I think the circumstances are dramatically different. But great point …

Because …

1 – These three words …


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs got in a flow early and never let up on the Trail Blazers

Numbers preview: Spurs-Blazers

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Blazers and Spurs Series Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Only one Western Conference team has a winning record against the San Antonio Spurs over the last six seasons. That team is the Portland Trail Blazers (14-7), who the Spurs haven’t faced in the postseason since they won their first championship in 1999.

Through the years, the Spurs have had a hard time slowing the Portland offense down. And this season, doing that has been tougher than ever. The Blazers ranked fifth in offensive efficiency in the regular season and first in the first round.

Of course, the Spurs were the best team in the league in the regular season. They’re looking to get back to The Finals, but have another tough challenge ahead.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the No. 1 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference, as well as the four games they played against each other.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the first round.

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)

Beat Dallas in 7 games.
Pace: 94.2 (5)
OffRtg: 110.2 (3)
DefRtg: 106.8 (9)
NetRtg: +3.4 (6)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Portland: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)

Beat Houston in 6 games.
Pace: 95.9 (3)
OffRtg: 111.8 (1)
DefRtg: 109.8 (13)
NetRtg: +1.9 (8)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. San Antonio: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
First round: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

First-round notes:

The matchup

Season series: Tied 2-2 (1-1 at both locations)
Pace: 98.5
SAS OffRtg: 106.8 (10th vs. POR)
POR OffRtg: 107.0 (5th vs. SAS)

Matchup notes:

Morning Shootaround — May 6



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Game belongs to CP3 | LeBron focused on title, not MVP | Wall and Beal lead young Wizards past Pacers | Spurs look to their bench for boost | Hibbert’s teammates fed up, need more from All-Star big man

No. 1: CP3 answers the bell, silences his critics in opener –  Silence. That’s what Chris Paul did to his critics in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ conference semifinal in Oklahoma City Monday night. Folks who questioned whether or not he was ready to play through whatever pain he’s experienced with a sore hamstring and aching thumb found out early, and often, that he was not going to be denied. And a determined Paul, with all that he has been through recently,  is still a force to be reckoned with in these playoffs. Bill Plaschke of the The Los Angeles Times explains:

Chris Paul entered this postseason famous for a ring he doesn’t have, a city he doesn’t own, and a television commercial featuring a twin brother who doesn’t exist.

Maybe that’s why, on a wind-stopping Monday night in Oklahoma City, he spent three hours shouting, “Enough.”

Enough of the talk that he’s too injured and weary to lead the Clippers to NBA greatness, as the smallest starter ducked his head and shouldered them to a stunning 122-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener of their second-round series.

Enough of the idea that his sore hamstring and thumb limit him offensively, as he missed just two of 14 shots and just one of nine three-point attempts, scoring 32 points in the best pure shooting postseason game of his career.

Enough of the talk that he’s too slow defensively, as he led a swarming Clippers defense that deadened the dazzling Thunder offense into 18 turnovers, resulting in 23 points.

Enough, enough, enough of the idea that Donald Sterling has anything to do with this anymore.

Paul’s role as president of the players’ union meant he was especially stressed during the Sterling-stained opening series. He led the players in their jersey protest while wearing black socks and sleeves. Until the final quarter of Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, he struggled throughout the series with his strength and focus, and even admitted that he was one of several Clippers who fell asleep during Sunday night’s film session here.

A day later, biting through the Thunder and its roaring college-type crowd as if they were his dangling mouthpiece, Paul made it clear that everything was different.

“Maybe with all that stuff that happened, winning that series allowed him to breathe a little bit,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers afterward.

Paul showed up in a white sleeve and white socks. He took his first shot midway through the first quarter. It was a three-point attempt. He swished. He missed his next shot moments later. He didn’t miss again until there were barely five minutes left in the third quarter. During that time, he hit jumpers against seven different Thunder defenders, and ended any last Thunder gasp early in the third quarter with a tumbling three-pointer from the corner with Russell Westbrook in his face.

“That’s what I do. That’s what I do. [Pause] That’s a lie,” said Paul with a laugh when asked about his treys. “This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2, I’ll tell you that.”

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Underdog role suits Trail Blazers

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


Video: Spurs-Blazers series preview

PORTLAND, Ore. — So far.

That’s what Damian Lillard said when somebody asked him if that 25-foot, just-before-closing-time, crackling bolt of lightning on Friday was the biggest shot he’d ever made in his life.

It tells you all you need to know about the 23-year-old with the killer grin and assassin’s calm.

It also tells you all you need to know about the Trail Blazers, most of whom have come so far individually to become this team.

“It’s just kinda who were are. I know Damian has talked about being underdogs — Wes (Matthews) being undrafted,” said coach Terry Stotts. “Damian coming from a small school. Some guys feeling like they’ve been a little roughed up in their careers. I don’t think it’s really anything that we foster. I think it’s just grown organically.”

Grown from a chip that they all carry around on their shoulders into a big stick of righteous indignation that the Blazers have used to prod themselves to a different place.

The second round of the playoffs.

“You ask me if I’m counted out?” Matthews said. “Of course. I’m always fueled by being counted out and we’re gonna be counted out of this next series.”

The Spurs have won three of their four franchise championships, been to the The Finals four times and played in the Western Conference finals three on other occasions in the 14 years since Portland last won a playoff series.

Yet the Blazers can hardly wait to take their “nobody-loves-us” burden into San Antonio for Game 1 on Tuesday night.

It is a well-polished routine and they know it by heart:

  • Lillard was under-appreciated and under-recruited coming out of high school and had to play his college ball at Weber State.
  • Matthews was undrafted by the NBA out of Marquette in 2009.
  • Veteran star LaMarcus Aldridge had to fight for respect through five NBA seasons before he was finally selected for an All-Star Game and is still routinely overlooked in the All-NBA voting.
  • Nicolas Batum was just a 19-year-old Frenchman with no more than hope and a light resume when he arrived in Portland in 2008.

When it was mentioned that Robin Lopez isn’t even regarded as the best player in his own family, Batum doubled over laughing.

“Yes, it’s funny,” he said. “Good, not great. It’s who we all are. We all have been through a lot. We have all had our ups and downs to get here. Even L.A. was snubbed for all those All-Star Games. Nobody expects anything from us. Except for the ones in here.”

The Blazers were back on the court at their practice facility after a day to soak in the city’s joy over their accomplishment. Not that many took the plunge.

“I did pretty much the same things I always do,” said a beaming Lillard.

He went home. He relaxed. He watched replays of his shot “maybe 5 or 10 times” and he listened to an almost non-stop string of text messages buzz in on his cell phone.

“I’ve gotten so many videos of it sent to my phone,” Lillard said. “I watch it because every version is different. The thing I enjoyed the most about it was just seeing everybody’s reaction. You got to see how bad our team wanted to win that game.

“It wasn’t about me. You saw the coaches excited that we’re going to be moving on. My teammates running all over the floor. The crowd. I think a couple fans almost ran on the floor. I’m just happy we were able to get that series done. Because the last thing we wanted to do was go back to Houston.”

It was all glorious fun while it lasted. But now there is more serious work ahead against the defending Western Conference champions and the No. 1 seed.

“It’s over with now,” said Lillard. “It’s not like the moment is going to go away. We haven’t gone past the first round in 14 years, so people won’t forget it. But our team, we’ve got to move on from it, and we’ve still got games to play. Our goal wasn’t to make a big shot and be happy with that. I think, if anything, that made us want to get more done.”

The Blazers will continue to wear the underdog role as if it were an expensive fur coat, wrapping themselves up it and preaching that it’s still a cold, disrespecting world out there.

Yet beneath there is a silk lining of self-reliance and growing fearlessness.

“Anytime you win, you’re going to get confidence,” Matthews said. “To win in the fashion that we did, where the games were always tight and nothing was safe, we learned a lot. I think that was a learning process for everybody about how valuable all these possessions were and how fragile it could be and a wrong bounce could send you to a Game 7 that you don’t want to be in. Now, I don’t think there’s a limit.”

Maybe there never has been, at least in their own minds.

“We were up 3-1 on Houston,” Lillard said. “To be honest, after the first game, we felt like we were going to win the series. I think getting it done, we proved more to other people than we proved to ourselves. There’s no reason now to think it can’t go on.”