The Portland Trail Blazers got their first loss of the NBA preseason on Thursday, falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 109-108. The game got away from them in the second quarter, and though they would recover well, they could not come away undefeated. CSNNW brings us the post-game interviews:
The last three games I’ve come away with being really pleased with our young guys. They come out and compete and won two and almost won another one, so I’m really pleased with how they’ve come in after sitting for two hours and come out and play well. That was encouraging. It was kind of a disjointed game with the foul trouble and, you know, if it had been a real game Mason (Plumlee) would have come out, so I think that’s a little hard to evaluate. It was frustrating in the beginning, the second quarter was tough—some turnovers and poor execution and missed shots—it was difficult on our defense because of what we were doing offensively.
Defensively, I mean obviously they’re one of the best pick-and-roll teams in the NBA, but how did you feel like you guys faired against them?
Their offense or our offense?
Your defense against their offense.
I thought it was okay. You know, we didn’t necessarily game plan for (them) since we play them first week of the season, so we kind of stuck with our basic coverages, but we gave up a couple—Chris Paul’s tricky—he gave up a lob and they got a layup and those stand out, but it’s a tough question because I always think it can get better. I thought we competed, I thought we were locked in, and the first quarter was very good.
That second quarter when you guys kind of started struggling offensively, obviously that was probably the most we’ve seen Evan (Turner) handle the ball. Was that just unfamiliarity, you think, or what’d you attribute that—?
I watched the film. I think it’s tough. There’s five guys out there and, for whatever reason, the turnovers and poor execution and some bad bounces—I don’t like making blanket statements right after a game.
You guys talked about wanting to get better defensively and even mentioned that one of the ways is to defend without fouling. Obviously a lot of foul calls tonight. Both sides. Do you feel like that as more just a situation of the game or systemic of something else or…?
I don’t know. DeAndre (Jordan) drew a lot of fouls, Blake (Griffin) drew some fouls, they were very aggressive going to the basket and we were put in foul position. Some were tough calls. Like I said, if I’d taken Mason out, maybe we would have had a different rhythm to it, but I don’t know.
How do you think that Evan has been adjusting to the team so far?
I think he’s been adjusting well. I think he’s still finding his way. It’s a difficult transition when you’ve played for two or three years and coming into a new system where everybody kind of knows things. I think the toughest thing for him right now is, since everyone out there is so familiar with what we did last year and fitting in—we’ve put in a lot of things—it’s going to take a little bit of time for him to really feel comfortable with some of the things that we’re doing that our other guys take for granted.
Jake (Layman) looked pretty comfortable out there late in the game. You drew up that play for him there at the end. Obviously it didn’t work, but—
I was glad to see it. He had two hard drives to the basket, made a jumper off a curl, and it’d be nice if the three had gone down, but I liked the way he was flying around out there.
I think he’s figuring it out. You know, it’s tough sometimes when you have—I’ll handle the ball a lot, CJ (McCollum) handles the ball a lot, and he’s a guy that makes plays. He handles the ball, he’s in control a lot. We have to do a better job of allowing that to happen more often and he has to just get comfortable.
It takes time. You don’t just go to a new team and figure it out in three weeks. That’s why the preseason is necessary, so we can get these games in. You know, you have a bad one, you have a good one, then you look okay and you kind of iron it out and you figure it out. We got what? Three more games? Three more preseason games? I think we’ll figure it out. I think we look good. I think we’re clicking. It’s in spurts more than we would like, but you can see it when it happens.
We were lazy with the ball. I think I had five turnovers myself, and I can remember at least three of them being passes that I didn’t even have to make. I remember another where if I would have passed it with more urgency, if I’d have been locked in on that play more, it might have got there and it might have ended up in the basket instead of them going the other way scoring. I thought we were loose with the ball. We had a lot more turnovers than we’ve been having and we can’t have that if we want to go on the road and win the game.
That six minutes, though, at the beginning of the second quarter when you were out and it was 18 to nothing they went on a run—
Was it? Oh yeah. Well it was—we had 27 still when I came back in.
Yeah. What did you observe from the bench there?
It looked like they got on a run, but we weren’t guarding well enough to go out and get the ball in transition and move it like we wanted to. For us, when we get stops in, we able to get out and push the ball, that’s when we kind of get going. We guard well enough to get going on the other end. It can’t be the opposite way. We trying to find it and find shots and things like that on offense to make us be better on the defensive end. I think we had that a little bit. Because they got it going, they’re energy was picking up more and more. We struggled more. So they got a little run on us.
So, like you’ve said, you’re not worried about this team’s offense, and I think the big question is of if you guys can take that next step is going to have to come defensively. How do you feel you guys are right now? I know it’s still early, preseason, how do you feel you are towards—?
I think we’re doing better. I think considering how many guys are on the floor, guys coming in and out, I think we’re doing well. Already doing better in our pursuit, getting over the screen and staying in the play. I think we doing better at that, but our communication is not where we need it to be if we going to take that step.
Sometimes guys get picked off on screens, sometimes we over-helping, sometimes we not helping enough, and it all comes down to communication. We got to open our mouths, and when we don’t, we get hurt. We’re a quiet team right now. We talk in spurts and we got to be a lot more vocal out there to make sure that we connected. We can’t just be physically being in the right spot, running here, running there.
Just how weird was that to foul out in the first half?
It was different. I appreciate Stotts leaving me in there, but I definitely didn’t show him I can play with five fouls, so I don’t know. It was interesting. Interesting night.
How do you feel like you guys did defensively?
I thought the first quarter was good. The second quarter, I think our offense kind of hurt our defense. It’s normally the other way around, but we didn’t help ourselves on offense. We gave them run-outs, we let them get in transition, and they got a lot of easy buckets, but it’s preseason and we’ll get better.
Just with you guarding DeAndre, what are the challenges there and what—?
Well, to me the biggest thing is he knows he’s not going to get the ball so he’s getting position before they even shoot it, so really you just got to recognize that he’s going to the boards. That’s his chance to go and touch it, so you got to keep him off the glass. That’s where he can really affect the game. They had the one ATO (After timeout play) where they got the lob to him, but he didn’t complete it, so we’re kind of onto their lobs and not letting him get behind the defense, but you can’t let him get extra possessions for their team. That’s the biggest thing, and it was the same last year when we played them.
Overall, how do you feel about where you guys are right now?
I feel good. I mean, I think our bench has been great, man. Those guys that come in—our bench and then our second bench—those guys, they’ve been playing great all preseason. I think we’re doing a good job acclimating the new guys and getting our system familiar to them.
I think it’s just picking it up on the fly. Each game, I think I’m recognizing more and more, and when it comes down to it I’ll be fine.
How would you describe the start of that second quarter? You were running a lot of point there. How’d the flow feel for you?
I think it was stagnant, obviously. I think it was very stagnant. I think I got to do a better job of calling plays, I think we got to do a better job of retaining and reacting as a unit, and not going with the flow of stuff. Sometimes things are going to be perfect and everything like that and, once again, I think as I get more reps in and things like that I’ll have a better understanding, like I said, better feel of what we’re executing and who we’re executing it for. That’s it.
So during that time he’s allowing you to call plays?
There’s certain sets you run on the fly that’s supposed to be ‘read and react’ and things like that, so right now we just need to, I think, I need to be more vocal about it. Also, I think we need to do a better job as a unit as read and reacting.
More vocal as far as calling out the play or…?
No, just getting people to (indiscernible) and getting people in spots to be successful. I think, as somebody that’s starting an offense, as I learn more and more it will get easier.
I apologize, there was something I was going to ask you.
Oh yeah? What’s that?
How would you characterize your acclamation to the team so far?
It’s decent. I think right now it’s going to go how you expect it to go because we’re doing so many different lineups right now. We’re testing a lot of different things out, so right now everything’s a test run and I think a week ago I somewhat struggled with the new plays, and now I think I’m familiar with the plays. Now it’s just on the fly, like I said, thinking in six tenths of a second who to get where, how, what, in all types of situations. Once again, being more vocal about it and adding pace to it. Next game, on Sunday will be a big—obviously Saturday will be a big adjustment, a big jump for me to do that and also as a unit.