Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts praises wherewithal of Clippers

Clippers Trail Blazers Basketball

Austin Rivers had his left eye nearly shut from an errant elbow from Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu in Saturday’s Game 6 at Moda Center in Portland. Rivers took 11 stitches/AP photo by Craig Mitchelldyer


Coach Terry Stotts’ Portland Trail Blazers had just eliminated the Clippers with a 106-103 victory in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Friday at Moda Center. Portland won 4-2.

The first question him came from a reporter who wanted to know what Stotts thought about the Clippers’ heart. After all, not only were the Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – their two best players – Austin Rivers took an elbow to his left eye in the first quarter. Rivers took 11 stitches, came back and finished with 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

Indeed, Stotts was impressed.

“Well, I’m glad you brought that up,” Stotts said. “I want to congratulate the Clippers and Doc (Rivers). Obviously, the injuries that they had was a setback, but they really competed hard.”

Stotts said he was disappointed that Paul and Griffin didn’t get to finish the series, both of them going down in Game 4.

“Obviously, they had championship aspirations and they weren’t playing at full strength, so I really admire what they were able to do,” he said. “We knew they were going to play hard, we knew they were gong to compete and they did, so I’m thrilled with the win. But my hat’s off to them.”

Doc Rivers, who just finished his third season as head coach of the Clippers, won a title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. But he said he has never felt better about a team than he does this one.

“No, I told them, I’ve been around a long time,” he said. “What I loved about this group is they didn’t care. They never looked for an excuse, they never … you know, guys didn’t play. Blake went out, CP (Paul) went out. I mean, they never doubted it. They believed they could do it.

“Obviously, they didn’t. But, man, that team had more heart than any team I’ve ever seen. It was amazing to coach them.”


Doc Rivers praises Trail Blazers for their play through five games

Warriors Clippers Basketball

Doc Rivers shouts a a referee during in game against Golden State in February at Staples Center/AP file photo by Danny Moloshok


When the Clippers looked good in taking a 2-0 lead over Portland with victories in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, the word “sweep” became the first-round series buzz word. Considering the Clippers were 24 games over .500 (53-29) during the regular while Portland was just six (44-38), it was understandable.

When the series shifted to Moda Center in Portland, the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers in Game 3 with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul still playing, and they were leading the Clippers in Game 4 ahead of Paul’s injury in the third quarter and Griffin’s in the fourth on their way to tying the series 2-2.

Rivers gives the Trail Blazers a tip-of-the-cap for playing better than many might have thought they would.

“I think they have played wonderfully,” said Rivers, whose team lost Game 5 on Wednesday at Staples Center with Paul and Griffin on the shelf to fall behind 3-2. “I think they have played better defense than they did in the regular season, for sure. Offensively, they really haven’t played great, but they haven’t had to. We haven’t played great offense, but a lot of that is because of their defense, so you have to give them credit.”

Portland allowed 104.3 points during the season, 20th in the NBA. Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts intimated it’s been about focus.

“I think everybody’s really locked in,” he said before Game 6 at Moda Center. “We’re more consistent. We haven’t had a lot of areas where for two, three, four minutes we had a lot of letdowns.”

Don’t expect Trail Blazers to exhale with Clippers’ stars unable to play

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


With an opportunity to win a series few thought his team could when it began, don’t think for one second that Portland coach Terry Stotts and his Trail Blazers will now relax because Chris Paul (fractured hand) and Blake Griffin (partially torn quad tendon) are out.

Stotts said as much after his team’s 98-84 Game 4 victory on Monday night in Portland. By then, Stotts knew Paul had a fractured hand and he knew that Griffin could not finish Game 4 because he had aggravated his quad tendon, which was originally injured on Dec. 25.

“Two-two,” he said of the series score. “I love the energy that we’ve had defensively the last three games. We have to take that to L.A. But this is the playoffs. You don’t have time to exhale.”

Expect the Trail Blazers to come out hard against the Clippers on Wednesday night in Game 5 at Staples Center. Austin Rivers is expected to start for Paul and Jeff Green is supposed to start for Griffin.

Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum is NBA’s Most Improved Player

C.J. McCollum of the Trail Blazers holding up the hardware he received Friday/Photo courtesy of Portland Trail Blazers


The guard tandem of the Portland Trail Blazers has had a tough time against the Clippers in the first two games of their first-round playoff series. Perhaps an award will at least get one of them going.

Portland shooting guard C.J. McCollum on Friday was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He finished with 101 out of a possible 130 first-place votes and 559 total points in what was a landslide vote from 130 sports writers and broadcasters.

Kemba Walker (7 first-place, 166 points) of Charlotte was second and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee finished third (4 first-place, 99 points).

Interestingly, reigning league MVP Steph Curry of Golden State was fourth with seven first-place votes and 83 points.

McCollum, 24, is in just his third season. He averaged 6.8 points in 62 games – three starts – in 2014-15. This season he averaged 20.8 points while starting all 80 games in which he played during the regular season.

“C.J. worked extremely hard to have the season that he had this year,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said on the team’s website. “His work ethic and commitment to improve is the reason he is deserving of this award. He is an example to everyone what can be accomplished with diligent practice and a belief that you can always get better.”

McCollum is the third Portland player to win the award. Kevin Duckworth won it in 1987-88 and Zach Randolph won it in 2003-04.

McCollum scored just nine and 16 points, respectively, in losses to the Clippers in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center. He shot 3 of 11 in Game 1, 6 of 17 in Game 2 for a combined 9 of 28 (32.1 percent).

Damian Lillard, Portland’s point guard, has shot a combined 13 of 39 (33.3 percent).

Game 3 is Saturday night at Moda Center in Portland.

Portland coach Terry Stotts says containing Blake Griffin not easy

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


Now that Blake Griffin is playing close to what he was before he suffered the first of two injuries on Dec. 25, it’s going to be even more difficult for the Portland Trail Blazers to hang in with the Clippers in their first-round playoff series.

Griffin on Sunday scored 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and doled out six assists in the Clippers’ 115-95 Game 1 victory over Portland.

Prior to tip-off Wednesday for Game 2, Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked about trying to contain Griffin’s offense, which included some spectacular, high-rising dunks Sunday.

“We have to keep (Griffin) away from the basket,” Stotts said. “He had his best game since he came back from injury, and he looked like the player he was before he got hurt. It is challenging because he can pass and make plays off the dribble. I do not think there is any one way to defend him.”

Griffin missed 45 consecutive games with two injuries and a four-game suspension. He returned April 3 and played five regular-season games before the playoffs commenced.

Portland coach Terry Stotts knew what to expect from Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin, right, of the Clippers and Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee have a moment here. Griffin had two dunks in the face of Plumlee in the Clippers’ victory over the Trail Blazers on Sunday night at Staples Center/AP  photo by Jae C. Hong


Clippers power forward Blake Griffin on Sunday had his best game since returning from a 45-game layoff on April 3. He scored 19 points on 5 of 10 shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds and had six assists, a steal and a block in the Clippers 115-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. That this performance came in Game 1 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, made it that much sweeter.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was not surprised. He knew what his team might be up against with Griffin. That was evident when he was asked post-game how Griffin’s work changes things moving forward in the series.

“We said going into it we were going to treat him like Blake Griffin,” Stotts said. “He’s an All-Star and he’s a great player, so it was just a matter of time before he rounded into shape. So I don’t think it changes anything from our perspective because we went into it assuming that he was 100 percent healthy.”

Game 2 is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.