PORTLAND [url=http://www.ramscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jack-youngblood-jersey]Jack Youngblood Jersey[/url] , Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers know they’re behind the eight-ball Tuesday night at Moda Center when they play host to the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
The No. 6 seed Pelicans stole a 97-95 victory in Saturday’s opener. The No. 3 seed Trail Blazers realize they can’t go to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4 trailing 2-0 in the series.
“It puts some pressure on us,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. “You come in with home-court (advantage) and you lose the first one. Now in (the Pelicans’) locker room, they’re saying, ‘We got one. Why not go get another one?’
“Our job is to defend the home court, so it’s one game at a time. We can’t let (Saturday’s) loss go into the next game.”
Portland has plenty of things to solve after Game 1. The Blazers would like to do a better defensive job on Anthony Davis, who carved them up for 35 points and 14 rebounds.
More important, they need to get their offense going early. The Blazers shot 31.9 percent from the field, including 3 of 17 from 3-point range, and trailed 45-36 at intermission on Saturday. Lillard and backcourt mate CJ McCollum combined for three points on 1-of-15 shooting in the first half.
McCollum finished with 19 points and Lillard 18 as the Blazers got untracked for 59 second-half points. But New Orleans’ defense on the Portland guards was as big a factor as any in the outcome.
“We just wanted to make sure we put as much pressure as we could on Dame and CJ, and make someone else beat us,” Davis said. “Our main focus was to make it tough on Dame and CJ.”
New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday was the best guard on the floor Saturday, with 21 points on 10-of-20 shooting and seven rebounds to go with outstanding defense.
“With Kawhi Leonard injured [url=http://www.jaguarscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-andrew-norwell-jersey]Andrew Norwell Jersey[/url] , I don’t know if there’s a better two-way player in the game,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We ask him to get 20 points every night and guard the best perimeter player on the other team, regardless of size or who it is. I don’t know if you can do a better job on those two guards than Jrue and (Rajon Rondo) did.”
Lillard thought the Blazers should shoulder the blame.
“We just didn’t make shots,” said Lillard, who played 42 minutes, including the entire second half. “Give credit to what they did defensively. They were physical, and they were trapping a lot of my pick-and-rolls. But it comes down to the way we shot. We got a fair amount of good looks; we just didn’t knock them down.
“We probably played as bad as we could possibly play. And (the Pelicans) played really well, and we still had a chance to win at the end. If we come out (in Game 2) and play like the team that we are, it’ll be a much better performance.”
Saturday’s win was the first ever in the playoffs for Davis, now in his sixth season in the NBA.
“It means a lot to get that monkey off your back,” he said. “But now that’s over with. We want to come in Tuesday and get another one. We always believe. Winning this game makes us believe more, especially on the road.”
Gentry said [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-glover-quin-jersey]Glover Quin Jersey[/url] , “We feel comfortable playing away from home. If you can win the first game, it takes the edge off. But we have to do the same thing (on Tuesday). You can’t take anything for granted. You still have to play with the same intensity.”
Cornerback Prince Amukamara appreciated the give and take with new Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy at Tuesday’s practice.
For the defense, as non-contact organized team activities began there was a lot of taking – and then they really gave it to Nagy and his fledgling offense.
”He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to because he’s a defensive coach,” Amukamara said. ”And it’s like Nagy’s offense, so if I get a pick or something … I like to talk stuff to him.”
The idea for the defense since offseason started was maintaining continuity with players and with coaches, even while the head coach had changed.
The addition of a few new pieces hasn’t hurt, and now defensive players believe they have what’s needed to improve on last year when they ranked 10th overall.
And Nagy is also a believer, even if he and offensive players are getting kidded at practice from Amukamara or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
”Right now there’s a trust from one another because they’ve been together,” Nagy said. ”There’s that experience factor, which is good. And they believe what they’ve got going on with Vic’s system.
”When you have that, that’s always good. So they just kind of want to grow from any mistakes they made last year [url=http://www.jaguarscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-niles-paul-jersey]Niles Paul Jersey[/url] , different areas of the game they can improve on, and that’s what they’re doing right now.”
Linebacker Danny Trevathan pointed to the retention of Fangio as a key. Fangio re-signed after his bid to become head coach was denied following Fox’s firing.
”I was excited to have Vic back,” Trevathan said. ”I was kind of nervous about him leaving. I feel like I really wanted him back.
”He’s one of our leaders and he’s one of the guys we can go to for calls and advice on things.”
Keeping the entire starting secondary together was also important. The Bears could have lost starting cornerback Kyle Fuller or his good friend Amukamara as free agents, but retained both.
Amukamara pointed to Seattle’s ability to keep Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor together as an example of what familiarity can do for a secondary.
”So when you have that continuity and the language stays the same, meaning the plays, it just becomes second nature,” Amukamara said. ”Guys play faster. Guys know what to expect.
”They know how teams are going to attack them and all that is a recipe for success.”
Although intact, the Bears secondary has problems to correct. They’ve made a franchise record low of eight interceptions each of the last three seasons.
”I think personally on the back end it’s our job to take the ball away,” Amukamara said. ”I think we had our opportunities last year and just needed to capitalize on them.
”And I would say that for the most part, just taking the ball away, I think we did a great job last year. I think we were (third) at forcing fumbles and recovering them. So I think this year [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-dj-moore-jersey]DJ Moore Jersey[/url] , just catching them, intercepting it.”
One change the defense did make is drafting inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round to challenge Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski for playing time.
Trevathan realizes Smith threatens his job security, but also thinks the extra speed and depth is something the defense lacked..
”We got the right guy to fit our defense,” Trevathan said. ”He’s working his tail off and he fits in with our linebacker group.”
Nagy appreciated Smith’s quickness defending one pass play on the outside.
A forced turnover a few minutes later had the defense chortling, while Nagy had to address his offense.
”We like that because that’s the kind of defense we are,” Trevathan said. ”We’re going to be in your face making plays, but at the same time we’re having fun and we’re all getting better at the same time.”
NOTES: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch returned to practice after suffering an ankle injury at the April 17-19 minicamp. . After offseason surgery, right guard Kyle Long was able to participate in the offense’s installation, but did not take part in scrimmage. Nagy said it’s likely Long will stay at right guard. Last year some thought had been given to playing Long at left guard. … Wide receiver Allen Robinson is still sidelined while rehabbing a torn ACL. Nagy called Robinson ”ahead of the game” with his recovery.
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