The Portland Trail Blazers were defeated by the Denver Nuggets in a 106-97 loss at home on Sunday, bringing their preseason record to 3-2. Despite strong performances from CJ McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu, Denver kept control for much of the night. Damian Lillard, who has led the team through most of these exhibition games, was given half of the night off, not playing past the second quarter. CSNNW brings us the post-game interviews:
You guys are coming along as far as identifying a regular rotation.
I think we have pretty much an idea of who’s going to play, just in general, wherever that nine or maybe 10 guys are. As you saw through the first three quarters, we pretty much had our normal rotation in my opinion.
Do you read anything into you starting the last two games?
No. I don’t know who gon’ to start, I don’t care who gon’ start, and please stop asking me. Thank you.
How do you feel you guys are—you know, it’s about a week away now from the regular season—how do you feel the team is—?
I think we’re getting better. I think we’re getting better offensively as well as defensively. They made some shots tonight and we got to do a better job of locking in on personnel. But, again, we haven’t really done much of a scouting report all preseason and we haven’t been running a lot of our sets as well. A lot of it’s just playing, flow, so we’ll get better and coach will start calling a lot more sets as the real games start approaching. We’ll tighten up, in my opinion. I think we still need to get a lot better defensively.
I was going to ask about that. You guys keep saying that you keep having the offense be kind of vanilla. Do you imagine these next two games you’ll start implementing more of the regular plays?
I don’t think so. Like, we play the teams that we’ll be playing the beginning of the regular season. I don’t think we want to put too much out there. But, again, that’s up to coach. He wants us to get better at just playing in flow, so I think we’ll continue to do that and run the sets that we have been running.
The first six minutes of tonight’s game, that was pretty good flow. How would you rate that as part of the preseason?
I think that’s been the best offensively, just as far as moving the ball and taking what the defense is giving us. I think that’s the best we’ve been.
I thought we played well the first quarter. The second quarter got a little bit sloppy. We had some breakdowns defensively and they played a lot on the block and we haven’t been seeing that, so it put us in position to have to do something that we know what to do but we haven’t had to do it. They made us pay for it. They got guys down there. We were trying to help and get bigs and sometimes they kicked it out and that led to penetration, getting offensive rebounds from time to time, but their bigs gave us a hard time.
Our guys fought hard and we found a way to weather that storm. Just the second quarter—turnovers and defensive lapses—I think that’s what kind of got them going. You let an NBA team get their confidence up and get to feeling it, they going to believe for the rest of the game. I think that’s kind of what happened.
In the first five minutes you guys probably played your best offense of the preseason. Did it feel like that?
It did. I felt the flow of the game. Just the pace, getting stops, pushing it up, pitching it up, making the extra pass, guys sprinting the floor, getting to the corners, shooting with confidence. It was just going the right way. But usually when you have that happen early, you forget how hard it is to do those things and you have slippage and you get away from it and the offensive possessions aren’t as sharp and you not doing the stuff that you did to make those opportunities come. I think that’s what we ran into, but that first five-six minutes was good.
Is some of that, just how you can start that well, the continuity of that group? That five-man group?
Yeah, I think that’s part of it. And also, our practice yesterday was—we brought it in, we had a huddle, and we started playing right away. It was, like, yesterday was a lot of playing, so I think that was kind of continued flow from yesterday of us just playing and not having the option to call plays. We went out there and we played in the flow, we moved the ball, and guys shot it well.
Once again, I think once I’m more sure and assertive of what I’m doing, it’ll be easier like I said. Sometimes I get the rebound (and) I’m looking around at what the other four guys are doing as opposed to making a play and making people react to what I do. I think once that comes along and more so looking ahead as opposed to right to left, I’ll be fine. Other than that, it’ll be good.
What’s your experience of your previous stops of how long that might take for you to get used to tendencies?
Obviously preseason (indiscernible) and I think the first couple weeks of the season is going to be still a builder for me as well, but it’ll work itself out like I said. I think I just got to get back to just making plays and playing basketball and keeping my eyes open as opposed to, you know, sometimes I’ve been rushing and trying to get the ball out of my hands a little bit too quickly. Sometimes I don’t attack when I should, and, once again, just get guys to react and play how I know I can play as opposed to trying to think on playing the right way. You know what I’m saying? It’ll be fine. It comes natural. I feel confident leaving this game. Just toward the end I missed a few shots in the third quarter. I felt confident in general just leaving the game and kind of trying to build consistency off doing what I spoke on before.
How do you feel better than, say, like, last week at this time? Where do you notice some improvements?
I mean, the plays obviously. I think I’m picking up on the plays better. I think defensively I’m getting a little bit better, but the biggest thing is just getting more acclimated, my wind up, and that’s pretty much it.
I planned on playing (Lillard) 18 in the first and then have the second half off.
Terry, can we read into your starting (indiscernible) you’ve settled on?
You can read into it whatever you want. When I’m ready to announce to you—I’d like to announce to the team first, before I announce to anybody else—I thought the start was great, but I’m not going to comment on starting lineups until I’ve addressed everything with the team.
Is that the kind of, I guess from an offense perspective, what you’re hoping to get out of Farouq (Aminu) at the four, when he’s specifically matched up against bigger guys?
Yeah. I mean, shoot, that first five minutes was awesome. That was pretty basketball. We didn’t get enough stops during that stretch, but, offensively, it was five assists and five field goals and all threes. But as far as Chief, he found the spots and he made his shots obviously, but it was also the fact that the ball was moving around. So it’s more, I think, about how we want to play collectively.
How do you feel about the way Turner has played so far in preseason?
Good. Good. I thought tonight he had a good rhythm. He missed some shots—Dame missed some shots—that I liked. I think Evan’s getting more comfortable every game and I think we’re getting a little bit better and figuring out how to put him in better spots. I think he’s getting better every game.
Is it just a matter of him learning the plays?
No, it’s not about learning the plays. I think learning his teammates, getting comfortable, style of play, all those things. It’s not just learning plays.
How’s Meyers (Leonard)?
Meyers is fine. His back got stiff yesterday and he was limited at practice yesterday and it didn’t get much better today. I think it’s just after not doing competitive 5-on-5 full court for seven months and then being pretty intense for a week, it just tightened up.