The Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-110 on Sunday night. "Lillard Time" returned as All-Star point guard Damian Lillard drained five threes in the last three minutes of the game. CSNNW brings us inside the Blazers' locker room:
Mentally, what does it do for you guys to break out of this losing streak?
It just shows us what we’ve known all year, that we got to be consistent on the defensive end and we got to play complete games. All year we’ve had good stretches and then the next couple games we’ll get away from doing what allows us to do things like we did tonight, so we just got to continue to do it. I mean, understand what type of opportunity it gives us when we defend for a full game.
When you get it going, is there kind of a thing where you just start to… people know to look for you or are there people who say things [indiscernible] like that?
I don’t really have to say anything, you know, because just because I get it going doesn’t always mean ‘force me the ball.’ Obviously, you want to look for the hot man, but after I hit a couple threes, there was a possession where I came off, I wasn’t open, and CJ [McCollum] attacked. Sometimes that’s what you got to do to keep the defense honest, because the next possession I came down I hit another three. I think everybody understands when there’s a hot man you find that guy; especially down the stretch of a game that you can win.
And how about [Mason] Plumlee getting the block? There was a charge taken late—those were big plays too.
Mase has been… even while I was hurt, just watching him, that was one of the biggest things I noticed is how much he does for our team and our team defense. Him coming over for blocks; him coming over, helping guys out, and his man sometimes scoring, but him scrambling on the backline of our defense and tonight he was huge. I mean, that block. That changed the game completely. That was basically the game winner right there.
Keep shooting. Dame did a good job tonight. You guys are starting to see vintage Dame—think he’s started to get his feet back under him. People don’t understand what it’s like to come off injuries mid-season and miss games and the conditioning. You think about it, we’re playing games every other day, there’s not a lot of practices, so there’s not a lot of live action, it’s just working out. That stuff doesn’t necessarily always translate. Then he comes back the week of All-Star City. We go from playing Chris Paul to Steph [Curry], to Russell [Westbrook]—those are three elite point guards.
He stepped up, he hit big shots, he hit shots from 40 feet, he hit contested shots, and he guarded tonight. So it was a good all-around game for him, and I was looking forward to him coming back in that fourth quarter, looking like ‘Coach, come one. Give me some help.’ And he came through.
Is there kind of like a ‘here we go again’ feeling when you see him hit one and he kind of taps his wrist and nods his head—that type of thing?
He had good arc tonight. He had good pop in his step. Defensively, moving around screens well, and he didn’t really miss too many shots short, so I felt like he was in a good rhythm. They do a good job in their ball screen coverages of getting out hedges, and their bigs can switch and guard pretty well on the perimeter. So that just means you got to extend your range a little bit and, luckily, he has ‘in the gym’ range.
What did you guys change in those last three minutes to kind of slow them down on defense?
We changed up some of the pick-and-roll coverages. We gave [Kevin] Durant and Russ some different looks, some hard hedges, and I don’t think they were expecting it just because of our soft coverages all night in the pick-and-rolls where they were able to get to their mid-range jumpers. So we changed that up a little bit and packed it in the paint.
When was the last time—I know in practice it’s been a while—but when was the last time you guys practiced pick-and-roll coverage like that?
We haven’t. We haven’t.
No. We haven’t.
Did he just tell you just blitz them a little bit more?
Yeah, I mean, we worked on it in pre-season, so three months ago, two months ago. We’ve got some active bigs who are able to move. Plumlee, I’m sure he remembers the college days of hard hedges and traps. Ed Davis, you know, this is their first year here, so they’re used to playing pick-and-roll defense similar to what we did in the last three minutes. So it wasn’t a big change, it was more about being aggressive and using their athleticism and they did a good job. Coach did a good job of trusting us with not a lot of preparation in the pick-and-roll.
It’s huge. Our ability to beat a team like that shows the progress we’re making. I feel like we’ve been in a lot of games against a lot of really good teams and, for that matter, we’ve also had games we should have won against some of the teams with worse records. So, I think that we have to continue to believe in ourselves work every single day, but when we play the way we did… you know, obviously Dame got it going, but play consistently on the defensive end, understand scouting reports, understand player tendencies, and be confident on the offensive end and do what Terry [Stotts] tells us to do, which is just play basketball and believe n the next guy. I think we can hang in there with a lot of teams. Like I said, we’ve shown that, and we have to continue to mature as a team and be able to do that more often.
Damian was urging the crowd on there in the last minute. What is he saying in the huddles, if anything? Is he pretty vocal in timeouts and situations like that?
Yeah, he’s vocal. He’s our leader. He’s our guy. You know, ‘Stick with it, keep the energy up, continue to get stops, and jut believe in the next guy.’ Because, obviously with him, sometimes he’s breaking guys down one-on-one, but he’s also facilitating, getting other guys open. I thought one of the bigger plays was when we got a stop, CJ came down in transition, drew the defense and threw it to Allen [Crabbe] for a three, which cut it to one I believe. That’s a huge play, so believing in the next guy to make a shot or to make the next pass is something that… I mean, you look at a team like Golden State. They know that Steph might take five in a row, but then he’s going to find the next open guy maybe the next possession. So it’s belief in the next guy, belief in the system, and continuous work day in and day out.
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