A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization


A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization

In the wake of Friday’s thorough defeat to the Golden State Warriors, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard said something that should be noted.

He was asked about a rather non-descript accomplishment during the blowout loss – becoming the first Blazers player to amass 40 points and 10 assists in the 20-year-old Moda Center.

Tucked ever so nicely in his answer was a significant notion: He wants to spend his entire career in Portland.

First, some perspective.

This is a Trail Blazers franchise haunted by defection.

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t feel he was important enough. Rasheed Wallace was never comfortable here. Clyde Drexler wanted to go home. Bill Walton didn’t like the medical care. And Maurice Lucas wanted more money.

So they all forced their way out.

The franchise has made bad decisions, like trading Jermaine O’Neal right before he blossomed into a star. And nobody has to be reminded about this organization’s bad luck, from Sam Bowie’s legs to Brandon Roy’s knees.

They were all gone too soon.

So when Lillard was asked that question Friday night, about becoming the first Blazer to have 40 and 10 in the Moda Center, his answer should catch your ear.

“It’s always good to be the first one to do something,’’ Lillard said. “Especially being part of an organization I plan on being a part of for my entire career. It’s an honor, but I would have liked for it to be in a winning effort.’’

“…part of an organization I plan on being part of for my entire career … “

 To this city, this fan base, and this organization, his sentiment should mean something. And so should the timing.

As the chill of this winter begins to settle on Portland, so too has the notion this Blazers team will be anything more than a lottery team. The losses have become more frequent. So too have the blowouts. Shoot, these days the team can’t even get its active list in order.

For Lillard, the slippage has been accompanied by a balky case of plantar fasciitis in his left heel, an injury whose long-term prognosis can scare even the most hardened athlete.

In other words, these are not the best of times for the Blazers. Typically, times like these are when you find out about people.

Do they quit? Do they place blame? Do they make excuses? Do they look for a way out?

Lillard on Friday stood and looked at the maelstrom with his familiar look-in-your-eye stare of seriousness, and calmly reminded he was going nowhere.

“Things get tough. It’s a tough league,’’ Lillard said. “You have ups and downs. We flipped our roster, man.  We completely flipped and got a brand new team. And I signed up to be a part of it. To be a part of the growth. I have to grow just as much as our team has to grow, and I’m excited about that, that’s why it’s not hard for me to say that’s what I want.’’

The cynics out there will say it is easy for Lillard to say he wants to be here. The franchise over the summer awarded him a $120 million contract extension.

But for Lillard, it goes much deeper than money.

He says the organization has embraced him as a person. Also, the city and fan base appeal to his core values.

“When I really like what a place is about, that’s what I want to stick to. I want to stick to things that click with who I am as a person,’’ Lillard said.

He lives year round in Portland, where he has championed causes like Special Olympics, inner city youth programs, anti-bullying campaigns and helping sick children.

And inside the Blazers’ walls, he feels the team has made the effort to know him, and his causes, and taken the initiative to show they understand him.

He likes that he comes to work in the morning and Coach Terry Stotts will playfully call him by his rap name “Dame DOLLA.” He likes that when he launched his adidas shoe line, players and coaches came to the release. He likes that the organization plays his rap songs in the arena. He likes that employees who sit behind desks at the practice facility take part in his 4-Bar Friday concept that challenges the public to rap on Instagram.

“It’s been like a hand-and-glove fit,’’ Lillard said. “The fact that they have embraced who I am, the person along with the basketball player … I don’t think there is anything more comfortable than that. That’s why I have no problem committing to something like that.’’

 The Blazers (15-24) have lost three in a row to fall to a season-low nine games below .500, with Oklahoma City up next on Sunday (6 p.m., CSN). The Thunder embarrassed the Blazers in the first meeting, which at the time was one of the rare blowouts Portland has suffered. Now, as the competition has improved, the Blazers’ have suffered blowout losses in four of the past five games.

Until his 40 and 10 night against the Warriors, Lillard had looked shaky in the two games after his two-week stint on the sideline. His season-long shooting slump continued, and his turnovers were unsightly and frequent.

That cozy embrace from the Blazers faithful was starting to feel a draft. Was CJ McCollum better equipped to anchor the Blazers? Had Lillard regressed after such a meteoric rise early in his career?

I asked Lillard if he would feel as comfortable in his commitment to Portland if the fans turned on him?

“If the fans turn ... I will say this: I think the real fans of this organization, the real fans of this city, I don’t think they ever will,’’ Lillard said. “I understand fans have emotions, just like we do as players, and they have a right to be like ‘Man, Dame … whatever’ … But I just don’t see that happening here.

“They are loyal to who is loyal to them, and I don’t plan on giving them a reason to turn.’’

He knows he can shoot better this season. And he knows he can take better care of the ball. But he also doesn’t hold himself above admitting he too needs to grow, just like Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and the rest of the young Blazers. Part of that growth includes shouldering a more prominent leadership role, an area that Stotts says Lillard is exceeding.

“When he was injured,’’ Stotts said, “he was the best leader in street clothes I’ve ever been around.’’

So Lillard marches on, oblivious to the noise around him, unconcerned with the chill left by a season heading south. The franchise pillars before him all found a reason to leave Portland when the going got tough, but Lillard figures now is the time to dig his heels in, even if they are sore.

“(Wanting to leave) is the easy thing to do. It is. That’s the easy thing to do,’’ Lillard said. “I have always been the type of person, when things are hard, to not think about how hard it is now. I think about what it will be like when we get through this, and how it turns into what I want it to turn into. Then, that will be the ultimate satisfaction.’’ 


Trail Blazers look to avenge double-overtime loss to Pistons

Trail Blazers look to avenge double-overtime loss to Pistons

The Portland Trail Blazers (24-34) wrap up its three-game road trip in Detroit on Tuesday to face the 28-31 Detroit Pistons. 

Portland is looking to bounce back after Sunday’s 112-106 loss to the Toronto Raptors.  Damian Lillard shot 10-of-20 from the field to score 28 points in the loss.  The Blazers allowed the Raptors to shoot 53.8% from the field for the game.

Al-Farouq Aminu (left knee) returned to game action vs. Toronto.  In 29 minutes of play, Aminu had 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds.  The Blazers small forward continues to come off the bench for now.

After Sunday’s game, the Trail Blazers announced that Jussuf Nurkic had sustained two dislodged crowns vs. the Raptors and that night the teeth had been subsequently repaired.

Detroit also played on Sunday, hosting the Boston Celtics.  Boston beat Detroit, 104-98.  As a team, the Pistons shot 43.2% for the game, but Detroit also committed a total of 17 turnovers.   

Pistons small forward Tobias Harris leads the way in scoring for Detroit, averaging 16.3 points.

The last time the Blazers and Pistons met, it was a double-overtime thriller on January 8th with the Pistons winning, 125-125.

The Pistons are now 18-12 at home this season.

Portland currently sits in the 10th spot in the Western Conference Standings; 1.5 games back of Denver for the final playoff spot out West.

You can catch an all-new Rip City Live starting at 3:30pm on CSN as we set the stage for Tuesday’s game between the Trail Blazers and Pistons. 

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 4:30pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.

Quick Links:

Raptors outlast Trail Blazers

The Raptors, with Ibaka a big plus at both ends, defeat the Blazers



Video:   Highlight: New look Raptors too much for Portland to handle

Video:   Dwight Jaynes: Blazers need Aminu back in the starting lineup

Video:   Lillard: “Good defensive game. Average offensive game.”

Video:  Talkin’ Ball: Blazers don’t have a big margin of error


Game Details:

Where:  The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills MI 

Television: CSN, 4:30pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (3:30pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

The Raptors, with Ibaka a big plus at both ends, defeat the Blazers

The Raptors, with Ibaka a big plus at both ends, defeat the Blazers

TORONTO -- I think, on the whole, the Portland Trail Blazers were in a little over their heads Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors -- even though Toronto's all-star guard, Kyle Lowry, sat this one out with an injury.

And a little more than a week ago, with Lowry out, I'm not sure I would have said that. But the Raptors added Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline and he was a game-changer in the Raps' 112-106 win over Portland.

Ibaka scored 18 points, hitting 8 of his 15 shots, and added 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. And, of course, he did his usual outstanding job at the defensive end. He scored nine points in a key time from the 6:02 mark to 3:28 to play, acting like a go-to offensive player.

"He's a great addition to their team," said Portland guard Damian Lillard, who led the Trail Blazers with 28 points. "He's a great addition on both ends of the floor -- protecting the paint, being able to show and being active on pick and rolls. Offensively, he can shoot the ball. You saw tonight he was able to get on the block and score, shooting fadeaways and jump hooks. He's a really good fit on their team."

No kidding. And you have to give Ibaka credit. As a 20-year-old rookie in the league in 2009 he ran from shots -- a timid offensive player who averaged only five attempts per game. But he steadily worked on his offense from the outside in, first becoming a good three-point shooter and now adding a medium and short-range game to his arsenal. He's packing an effective field goal percentage of .625 this season.

He's going to be a big asset in the playoffs, when the Raptors just might have a legitimate shot at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland jumped to a 12-point lead in the first quarter but it slipped away rapidly. The Blazers led by three after the first period and trailed by one at the half. Still, they were down by just a bucket heading into the final quarter. And this is in spite of allowing a bewildering 21-2 Toronto run from the end of the first half to the first minute and a half of the third quarter.

"Teams are going to make runs but I thought we could have done a better job of stemming the tide a bit," said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. "It's disappointing to lose a game but I thought we competed well."

Maurice Harkless, who took a pass on talking to the media after the game, scored 18 points, hitting seven of nine shots. But at times the Trail Blazers had a lot of trouble finding another scorer. CJ McCollum hit just six of his 19 shots and Allen Crabbe two of six. Al-Farouq Aminu, back in action again, played 29:21 and had 13 points and eight rebounds.

"I thought we played hard, but we had that run in the second quarter where we went up double digits and let them go on a run," McCollum said. "At the start of the third quarter they went on another mini-run and I thought that was the difference in the game.

"We've just got to continue to stick with it."

Portland's new center, Jusuf Nurkic, had a rough night. He made just three of nine shots and got worked over pretty well by Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas, who made seven of eight shots. Worse than that, Nurkic took a shot in the mouth in the fourth quarter that resulted in something being dislodged in his mouth. At first it appeared he might have lost a couple of teeth but word came later that he had two crowns dislodged and subsequently repaired. He was not available for comment after the game.

DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 33 points -- 15 of them at the foul line, where he seems to live. This man gets calls the way Jordan used to get them -- whether they are actually fouls or not.

The Trail Blazers moved on to Detroit, where they conclude the road trip with a Tuesday game against the Pistons.

Raptors outlast Trail Blazers

Raptors outlast Trail Blazers

TORONTO -- The Portland Trail Blazers led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter and stayed close most of the way Sunday night but the Toronto Raptors pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 112-106 win.

Portland got 28 points from Damian Lillard and 18 from Maurice Harkless but got little help from others in this game. Harkless made seven of his nine shots and Lillard hit 10 of 20 but couldn't find any scoring from anyone else.

The Raptors rattled off a 15-2 run to end the first half and then scored the first six points of the third quarter but Portland fought back in the third and trailed by only two heading into the final period.

Portland center Jusuf Nurkic appeared to lose a couple of teeth, or a bridge, in a collision near the basket during the fourth quarter but he continued to play.

DeMar DeRozan scored 33 to lead Toronto. Al-Farouq Aminu returned to action for Portland, playing 30 minutes and scoring 13 points.

Portland moves on to Detroit to end this three-game road trip with a Tuesday-night game against the Pistons.



Trail Blazers and Raptors battling in a close one right now on CSN

Trail Blazers and Raptors battling in a close one right now on CSN

The Portland Trail Blazers continue its three-game road trip with game number two on Sunday in Toronto.

Al-Farouq Aminu (left knee) made is return to the court, but Blazers head coach Terry Stotts decided to keep Aminu in a reserve role. 

Midway through the first quarter, the Blazers were down 16-15.

To end the first quarter, the Trail Blazers held a 28-25 lead behind Maurice Harkless’ nine points after Harkless went 3-of-3 from the floor.  As a team, Portland shot 47.4% in the first quarter, while Toronto ended up shooting 45% from the field.

In the first half of his return, Aminu played 16 minutes and scored 11 points.  Aminu also pulled down six rebounds in the first half.

The Ratpors ended the first half on 15-2 run to get back in the game.

At the break, Toronto is up 53-52.  The Blazers shot 43.2% from the floor.  The Raptors shot 52.6% for the half.


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

  Al-Farouq Aminu, 11

Rebounds:  Al-Farouq Aminu, 6

Assist:  Damian Lillard, 4




Points:  DeMar Derozan, 16

Rebounds:  Serge Ibaka, 4

Assist:  Cory Joseph, 4

Following tonight’s game, you can check out an all-new Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  And if you can’t get to a TV, you can catch The Scoop Postgame show presented by Toyota of Portland on Broadway streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Trail Blazers try to build momentum, take on Raptors at 3pm on CSN

Trail Blazers try to build momentum, take on Raptors at 3pm on CSN

The Portland Trail Blazers (24-22) and Toronto Raptors (34-24) tip-off at 3:00pm on Sunday afternoon and you can catch all the action between Portland and Toronto on CSN.

The Trail Blazers are coming off a 112-103 comeback win over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.  In the win, Damian Lillard scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

As for the Raptors, Toronto beat the Boston Celtics on Friday night, 107-97.  The Raptors shot 49.4% from the field for the game.  Toronto’s point guard Kyle Lowry has been dealing with a wrist injury and did miss Friday’s game.

In the first meeting between the Blazers and Raptors, Toronto won, 95-91 back on December 26th.  In the loss for Portland, CJ McCollum scored 29 points and had seven assists.  Lillard did not play in the last meeting vs. the Raptors because of an ankle injury.

Toronto is now 20-10 at home this season.

The Trail Blazers have listed Al-Farouq Aminu (left knee) has probable for Sunday’s game.

We will set the stage for Sunday’s game between the Trail Blazers and Raptors with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 2:00pm. 

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 3:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.

Quick Links:

Lillard rides to the rescue in the fourth quarter

Three ‘new’ players fuel Blazer comeback win over Magic



Video:   1080 the FAN: Where do Blazers go after quiet deadline?

Video:   1080 the FAN: Nurkic has a lot of talent and has shown us his upside

Video:   Napier: I’ve grown to be that tough guy

Video:   Lillard: Building on win over Orlando



Game Details:

Where:  Air Canada Centre, Toronto Canada

Television: CSN, 3:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (2:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 2:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

As time goes by, 'Jail Blazers' trying hard to shed that nasty image


As time goes by, 'Jail Blazers' trying hard to shed that nasty image

I usually pay very little attention to Kevin Garnett's bewildering segments during TNT's Thursday night NBA broadcasts. It's usually just a couple of washed-up players sitting there telling each other how good they used to be. It's a waste of time that I can't believe TNT finds them more entertaining than a couple of minutes of Charles Barkley talking about anything.

But I recently saw a clip of Garnett and Rasheed Wallace talking about the 2000 Trail Blazers-Lakers Western Conference finals Game 7 and the "Jail Blazers" Era. And for those who weren't around at that time, I can't help but attempt to set the record straight about a few things they discussed:

And let me say I agree with Wallace that Portland should have won that series and advanced to an NBA Finals berth against overmatched Indiana. It was a mystifying fourth quarter collapse in the seventh game by Portland that changed the course of the franchise in a big way.

But Wallace, whose image in Portland seems to improve with every year he's retired, misstated a few things about that final game.

The first thing is, he blamed Coach Mike Dunleavy for calling a timeout that he believes stopped his team's momentum and allowed the Lakers to make a comeback. I would say, though, the Trail Blazer players -- and Wallace in particular -- had much more to do with Portland's loss than did the coach. The Blazers had a 73-58 lead in the fourth quarter before being outscored 31-11 to end the game with a four-point loss.

Down the stretch of a magnificent upset of a loaded Laker team that featured Kobe and Shaq, the Trail Blazer players choked. They tightened up to the point they couldn't seem to get their shots to the rim. Wallace himself was awful in the fourth quarter, which wasn't surprising. The talented power forward could be spectacular for much of a game and then run from key shots in fourth quarters. He eventually found a home in Detroit, where there were other players more than willing to take the pressure shots.

And the other thing that happened in this game is that Portland could not buy a call from the referees once the Lakers got their machine revved up. This game has become one of those controversial events that people point to as possible "fixed" games down through the years in the NBA. Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis fouled out of this one, with Sabonis continually getting blocking calls when he had solid position on Shaq as the latter bulled his way to the basket.

A check of the box score shows Los Angeles getting 21 more free throws than Portland and the fouls put a lot of pressure on Portland in the fourth quarter.

But that was a loss and it will always be that way. What I found in the video clip more disturbing was Wallace downplaying the whole Jail Blazers thing, insinuating that the players were being pilloried by the media for little things like parking in handicapped spots or speeding and that the local media was just out to make a name for itself in a small market.

That's a steaming pile of stink, Rasheed.

I'm not going to go into the full list of transgressions by the players on this team but here are just a few I remember off hand:

  • Ruben Patterson --  a registered sex offender who was arrested for felony domestic abuse against his wife.
  • Zach Randolph --  Once punched Patterson's eye socket out in practice, had a DUI and was the leader of the infamous "hoops family" that was under suspicion for all kinds of local mischief,
  • Qyntel Woods -- Arrested for speeding and tried to use his basketball card as ID. A marijuana charge and an arrest for animal abuse because of his involvement with a dog-fighting group.
  • Shawn Kemp -- Departed the team to enter drug rehab during a season.
  • Bonzi Wells --  A couple of episodes of spitting on opposing players and a stated disregard for the team's fans.
  • Rasheed Wallace -- World records for technical fouls, throwing a towel in anger at Arvydas Sabonis in front of a packed house in the Rose Garden and once threatened referee Tim Donaghy in a loading dock incident after a game.
  • JR Rider -- Threatened media many times, couldn't get along with his coaches and once insinuated that people of color were being hanged from trees just a few miles outside of town.
  • Damon Stoudamire -- A couple of marijuana charges, one of them famously at an airport metal detector with weed wrapped in foil.

Wallace, of course, laughed it all off with Garnett. "There were some mishaps in there," he admitted. "We were the only show in town. The only professional sports show in town. The only professional sports show between Seattle, at the time, and LA."

Hmmm. I guess he must have forgotten about all those "professional sports shows" in San Francisco and Oakland. But this Wallace remark was a classic:

"The only thing that could blow up and make local writers big was to go ahead and report everything, like if you had a speeding ticket or parked in a handicapped spot..."

As one of those writers I can tell you that we were just as sick of writing about those "mishaps" as they were sick about reading about them. But they were news and these guys were relentless with their trouble. And the amazing thing about Portland as a basketball town was as long as the team was winning, virtually nobody cared what the players did. We were constantly criticized by fans for writing "negative stuff" about their heroes, who got standing ovation after standing ovation from their adoring fans.

Until they started losing.

And let me tell you, as soon as that team started losing (Bob Whitsitt just couldn't keep his hands off the roster -- he kept tinkering until he moved Jermaine O'Neal to Indiana for Dale Davis and that was a monster mistake that probably cost him his job) the fans turned on the team very quickly. Winning is the ultimate perfume. And when this team stopped winning and continued its misbehavior, the fans revolted about the offensive aroma.

And I'm sorry, any attempt to portray that group of players as a sympathetic bunch is very misguided.

And if you were here and paid attention, you know what I'm talking about.

Three "new" players fuel Blazer comeback win over Magic

Three "new" players fuel Blazer comeback win over Magic

ORLANDO -- Who were those guys?

It seemed as if three new players rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter to rally the Trail Blazers from deficits as high as 14 points Thursday night and a 112-103 win over the Orlando Magic.

The "new" guys?

Well, certainly nobody expected Shabazz Napier to play the entire fourth quarter and a total of 26:21 as a defensive stopper and cool offensive presence.

When all else failed -- and defensive stoppers Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner on the sideline with injuries -- Coach Terry Stotts turned to Napier to defend the Magic point guards, who were burning a path to the rim for layups. And it was part of a three-guard lineup that Stotts stayed with down the stretch of the game.

"It was Shabazz's defense that kept him in the game," Stotts said afterward. "Elfrid Payton had taken the ball to the basket three straight times and I just liked Shabazz's quickness on the ball. I just wasn't comfortable taking him out."

And Orlando seemed comfortable with not taking advantage of Portland's smaller lineup. Can Portland use that extensively the rest of the season?

"I don't know," Stotts said. "It worked tonight. With Evan and Al-Farouq out of the lineup, rotations are going to change. I thought defensively we were not hurt much by it, so it will depend on the matchups but it something we have to consider."

Napier was just pleased to be a contributor -- and in a city where he once played. He scored 10 points, had seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and just one turnover. This was a game, by the way, when turnovers were a real issue. Portland had 15 of them at the half and finished with 20, for 27 Orlando points.

"I'm just glad I could help us win," he said. "I have to contribute in whatever way I can."

Damian Lillard, whose fourth-quarter onslaught provided the firepower for the Portland comeback, lauded Napier's contributions.

"I said he was MVP," Lillard said. "He came into the huddle and said, 'Do we want to win?' He kind of challenged our team and this was before he even checked in. When he got into the game he impacted the game. He backed up what he was saying."

Lillard, by the way, was another "new" guy. This was a Damian Lillard seemingly refreshed from the All-Star break, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter -- taking over the game with a ferocity and a purpose that we haven't seen from him since early in the season. He finished with 33 points on 12 of 23 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three-point distance.

Lillard has usually played well after the All-Star break and he said he enjoyed recharging his batteries during the time off.

"It couldn't have come at a better time," he said. "Over the break I took a lot of time to myself. I was sitting in the house and would go get treatment, then sit in the cold tub, shoot some free throws and then sit in the house all day watching TV, relaxing, drinking water, just chilling. That allows you to come back fresh, mentally and physically."

Lillard brought the whole package with him to the fourth quarter, hitting difficult, twisting layups and long bombs from the outside. It was some vintage stuff.

Meanwhile, the other "new" guy was a legit new guy -- center Jusuf Nurkic, playing in just his second game since arriving in a trade with Denver. He got his first start, too, and took full advantage of it.

He made half his 12 shots, had 12 rebounds, scored 12 points and had five assists. He was a plus-23 in his 34 and a half minutes on the floor. And he's excited.

"It feels great to play with those guys, especially CJ and Dame," he said. "They make my life easier. I really love to be here. The coaching staff has done a great job of putting me in position as to where I am supposed to be and my teammates are looking for me. This is the first time in two years I'm having fun.

"It was a tough two years (in Denver) and that is all I can say. I was just frustrated and not being in position that I am supposed to be for some reason, but I wish them good luck. I'm just having fun here and I love it, man. I enjoy every day here.

"When you have those type of All-Star guards it is so easy to play with them. First time in my life I have those guys and those type of guards. It feels great and finally I am happy."

And so were the Trail Blazers. But ahead on this trip are a couple of difficult assignments.

Sunday there is a game at Toronto, followed by a Tuesday contest at Detroit.

Perhaps the "new" guys will still have some energy.

Lillard rides to the rescue in the fourth quarter

Lillard rides to the rescue in the fourth quarter

ORLANDO – At the outset of the Trail Blazers’ first game after the All-Star break, the most interesting topic would be how long it would take for new center Jusuf Nurkic to get into the starting lineup.

That question was answered immediately Thursday night. He started against the Orlando Magic and played well.

But Damian Lillard stole the show down the stretch of the game. Lillard went on a shooting rampage that helped bring his team out of a game-long funk and to a 112-103 win over the Magic, putting an end to Portland’s three-game losing streak.

Lillard was sensational in the fourth quarter – on a scoring rampage with difficult twisting layups and contested threes.

He finished with 33 points, 17 of them in the fourth quarter.

Nurkic earned his first Trail Blazer start and during his eight minutes of play in the first quarter he hit two of his four shots, had two rebounds and an assist.  He finished with five assists and a double dozen -- 12 points and 12 rebounds while doing a nice defensive job against Nikola Vucevic, who is usually a Blazer killer.

The first quarter ended with Orlando holding a 25-23 lead. Portland had six turnovers in the period and put the Magic at the foul line 11 times. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers, Orlando hit just seven of the 11.

Lillard had seven points and McCollum six for Portland over the first 12 minutes.

The Blazers quickly fell behind as the second quarter unfolded, continuing to turn the ball over as Orlando warmed up at the offensive end. When Terry Stotts called a timeout with 9:36 to go in the first half, the Magic had a 33-26 lead.

The turnovers were the story in the first half for the Blazers. They coughed up 15 of them for 20 Orlando points – leading to a 55-46 halftime lead for the home team.

McCollum led Portland at halftime with 14 points. Lillard, saddled with three fouls early in the second quarter, had seven.

Portland fell behind by 13 in the third quarter but got going with a three-guard lineup that featured Shabazz Napier with Lillard and McCollum. The trio helped cut the lead to 71-68 with 4:39 to go in the third.

Orlando carried an 85-77 lead into the fourth quarter when the Blazers were trailing by five and had the ball for the last shot. A McCollum turnover on a play when the Trail Blazers were screaming for a foul resulted in a three-point field goal at the other end – a huge momentum buster for Portland.

Orlando got the lead back up to 11 four minutes into the final period but the Trail Blazers kept on fighting back. But they couldn’t stop the steady flow of turnovers, which kept costing them critical points and momentum.

And with 5:22 to play Lillard’s three-pointer from the corner put pushed Portland into a 96-95 lead. Orlando couldn't respond and the Blazers owned the final minute.








Turnovers playing a big factor for Blazers in 1st half vs. Magic

Turnovers playing a big factor for Blazers in 1st half vs. Magic

The Portland Trail Blazers are on the road to face the Orlando Magic on Thursday night as the Trail Blazers resume play of the second half of the season.

Portland is without Al-Farouq Aminu (left knee) vs. the Magic.  With Aminu out, the Blazers starting lineup Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh and the newest Trail Blazer Jusuf Nurkic.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said before Thursday’s game there would be no minute restrictions on Nurkic. This game against the Magic is Nurkic’s second game as a Blazer.

Midway through the first quarter, Orlando went up 11-8.

It was a low scoring first quarter for both teams.  To end the first quarter, Orlando held a 25-23 lead.  The Blazers shot 55.6% as a team, while the Magic shot 37.5% after one.

In 17 minutes of first half action, Nurkic scored eight points on 4-for-8 shooting and pulled down five rebounds.

The Blazers had trouble taking care of the ball in the first half, committing 14 turnovers as a team.

At the break, the Magic are up 55-46.  Portland ended up shooting 47.2% from the floor.  Orlando shot 39.6% for the first half.


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

  CJ McCollum, 14

Rebounds:  Jusuf Nurkic, 5

Assist:  CJ McCollum, 3



Points:  Nikola Vucevic, 13

Rebounds:  Evan Fournier, 4

Assist:  three players tied with two assists 

Following tonight’s game, you can check out an all-new Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  And if you can’t get to a TV, you can catch The Scoop Postgame show presented by Toyota of Portland on Broadway streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW on your phone, tablet, or computer.