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Dame Lillard taking Blazers to next level

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Dame Lillard taking Blazers to next level

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Brooklyn Nets implemented an interesting tactic late in the third quarter Thursday night in what was a must-win game for the Portland Trail Blazers to qualify for the play-in round of the NBA restart.

Damian Lillard — the hottest player in the NBA Bubble — received the inbounds pass and proceeded to casually dribble up the court to set up the offense. But on this trip up the floor, he noticed something unfamiliar. 

Before he even reached half court, two defenders blitzed him, forcing him to pass to his release valve early. “Logo Lillard” is what he’s dubbed for his penchant to pull up and hit from the league logo from near half-court with regularity.

“I’ve never [seen that] before. Maybe once, but not like that,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports after the Blazers’ 134-133 victory to claim the eighth seed in the West. “Like, bruh. Even when they were in a zone, they boxed-and-one. We ran our zone offense and [a defender] just followed me around and denied me.”

That defensive approach on Lillard first proved successful in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, when the six-seeded New Orleans Pelicans shocked the basketball world and swept the third-seeded Trail Blazers. The traps came so frequently for Lillard in that series, and for the most part, he tried to play the right way and simply trust his teammates by giving up the ball and hoping they would capitalize on a 4-3 advantage.

Portland was unable to consistently capitalize in those situations, though, and whatever rhythm Lillard had was disrupted. The narrative many people latched onto from that series was that Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday shut down Lillard when it was rarely a one-on-one situation. 

When Lillard saw Brooklyn commit to trapping him early, he thought of how he responded two years ago. 

“It was harder for me then. I took it hard,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Every time people mention that [Pelicans] series to me, I just say I got better from that. I improved and I think it has shown. Because tonight, it was even worse than New Orleans with how aggressive and early [the trap] was.”

Lillard had a feeling the traps would resurface at some point, and he put in the work behind the scenes with his teammates to limit their effectiveness. 

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Sources said Lillard has been in attendance at every optional practice during the restart to watch the young guys play three-on-three. This is his way of showing them that they are valued members of the team, knowing he’s going to need them.

On Thursday, the five-time All-Star put his head down against the Nets, dribbling through the doubles and finessing his way into the paint. He found teammates one pass away for open triples. And on one possession early in the fourth, when the defense forgot to pick him up at half-court, he splashed the ball through the net from the logo.

The right play is to pass the ball once a double is approaching, and two years ago, that’s what he did. It didn’t translate into the result he sought.

Lillard wasn’t going out like that again.

“That’s why I took that deep three,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “I wasn’t going to allow the traps to take me out of the game. I started to attack two defenders sometimes and if they overly sucked in, then I would still throw it out. But I started to search for shots and opportunities. But at the same time, I don’t mind trusting my teammates. I think Gary Trent Jr. has earned our trust. Even if he misses a few in a row, I still have confidence to make that pass ahead to him out of the double. And I got confidence that he’ll make it. So I’m looking at Gary Trent, who has probably made the most threes in the bubble, I’m looking at CJ [McCollum], and I’m looking at Carmelo Anthony. I’m looking at the double-team like, ‘I’m OK with this.’ And tonight we didn’t make shots, but I don’t see many nights where we get those looks and they don’t go in at a high clip.”

Despite the scheme, Lillard finished with game-highs of 42 points and 12 assists in 43 minutes of play.

McCollum, who is dealing with a fracture in his back, scored 25 points and came up with the decisive defensive stop, forcing Caris LeVert into a contested step-back jumper that clanked off the back rim at the buzzer.

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After the game, Lillard had a talk with LeVert, who torched the Trail Blazers for 37 points and nine assists.

“I told him he’s nice and to keep hooping,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Because he is. He really is nice, bruh.”

Portland, went 6-2 in the restart to grab the eighth seed and now will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in round, which starts Saturday with Portland a six-point favorite at BetMGM. The Trail Blazers just have to win one game to advance to a playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Grizzlies have to win twice on consecutive days.

Now that Lillard has found a balance in how to deal with traps and the extra attention on the court, the Blazers are anything but an easy out. Still, it’s going to take players hitting shots and some stunning performances from Lillard.

“Last year in the Western Conference finals, Golden State did kind of what Brooklyn just did. They just kind of didn’t let me get a look, except they had really experienced, smart players out there doing it and they were aggressive with it,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And even by the end of that series, the game that we got eliminated in Portland where I missed a shot at the buzzer to win it, I had a good game. I had 28 points and 12 assists in the final game, but it took me time to get going. But I think right now, I’m just growing as a player. I’m figuring out what teams are trying to do and moving from there. I’m finding my ways around it, knowing when to be overly aggressive, when to attack it, what to look for, who to put where to make them react in a way to see how they’re doing it.”

Carmelo Anthony honored 

It has been a great comeback story for Carmelo Anthony, who has come up big multiple times for the Trail Blazers in the restart. 

But he was recently awarded for his efforts off the court.

Neil Olshey, the Blazers president of basketball operations, presented Anthony with the Maurice Lucas Award on Tuesday.

This annual honor is named after the late Trail Blazer big man to highlight an individual who contributes to their communities and has the support of his teammates and the organization. 

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In such a short time, Anthony has shown to be well loved in Portland and a valuable member of the Blazers. 

Kyrie Irving’s initiative rolling on 

The Brooklyn Nets are without numerous players for the restart, but one of their stars is making sure other players aren’t without.

Kyrie Irving, who’s also a vice president of the players association, launched the KAI Empowerment Initiative, a $1.5 million fund he’s dispersing to WNBA players who opted out of their restart for various reasons.

Sources said the deadline for players to submit their request to receive funds from the program was this past Tuesday and the review process is underway. Participants will be notified about their requests on or by Aug. 24, sources said.

It’s an initiative that intends to support women’s basketball moving forward and do its part to ensure equality and social justice.  

Jamal Crawford fitting right in

Ever since the Brooklyn Nets signed veteran guard Jamal Crawford for the restart, the organization has raved about his leadership skills and how much his younger teammates respect him.

Sources said Crawford has shown his value in the locker room and demonstrated in his limited practices — due to a hamstring injury — that he’s still an offensive force. The Nets are seriously considering adding him to the roster for the 2020-21 season, sources said.

Nets superstar Kevin Durant has already publicly lobbied for Crawford to stay.

Jamal Crawford shows off his headphones. (Yahoo Sports)

The age gap between Crawford, 40, and his teammates is glaring when you look at the headphones Nets players use pregame to get themselves amped up. 

Most of the players have wireless Beats or Apple AirPods, but Crawford is rocking an old pair of Sony wired headphones that has an earphone detached from the swivel. 

Crawford’s teammates have tried to persuade him to upgrade, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year has refused. His wife, Tori, heard enough and shipped her husband a fresh pair of headphones that should arrive in the bubble this weekend.

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″I couldn’t leave without winning this award″

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″I couldn't leave without winning this award″

Statements from Otavio, the player of FC Porto, who this Monday received the Golden Dragon as Footballer of the Year.

Speech: “I thought and I didn’t say anything that I thought. It happened by itself, I’m very happy, I was looking for [o prémio] a lot of time. I saw others, I couldn’t leave without winning this prize. Thank God I won and now it’s time to make the most of it.”

Did you tell the President that you want the Golden Dragon? “I never commented, asking for an award was not my style, it was deserved, I was very happy, many could have won. I am very happy”.

Feeling: “This is something to be proud of, this is the best person in the club, everyone wants to win, this will go down in history. It will be kept under lock and key in the museum that I have. It will get worse.” , nothing will come of it, it will be well stored.

Gala: “It’s always great, because of covid-19, the gala concert has not been held for many years. It is always special, everyone wants to be part of the gala concert. Being a dragonado, he is even more special. We did a good job and this is proof.”

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″Most competitive costume required, Pepe’s costume″

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″Most competitive costume required, Pepe's costume″

Statements by Sergio Conceiçao after receiving the Golden Coach of the Year award at the Golden Dragons Gala

Golden Dragon cost: “I represent many people in this Golden Dragon. The first time I went to Olival with the president in 2017, he named the four essential pillars of FC Porto: rigor, competence, ambition and passion. Looking at it and being with it every day. My players, who don’t usually wear a formal suit as they do today, but the most competitive suit that is required, which is Pepe’s suit, give me great joy when I get up and go to work.”

Technical team and others: “With a super competent technical team, a health department, where there is not only Dr. Nelson Puga and therapists, but also an optometrist, pedologist, a number of people who work daily so that the players do not miss anything. and so that year after year they can get better and win, which is what we want.”

Techniques: “Victory. Not forgetting the people in the kitchen, in the restaurant, the people involved in analysis and observation, the equipment technicians, because today everyone is a technician… [risos]🇧🇷 Lawn techniques too, because I am very picky about the height of the lawn. I think that every detail is important and matters. Finally, a number of people who contribute to making this possible. This is not mine, this belongs to the people of Olival, who are always led by our great, my friend and godfather, the president.”

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A family: “Finally, to paraphrase our Gonzalinho [Borges], I want to dedicate it completely to my family, which is not easy, and parents, as always. Not being among us, they will certainly be very proud, not least because they have received two more extremely important people in the life of the club and that together they are up there watching us so that FC Porto becomes bigger , was getting better. , become stronger and win. And let’s keep it up. Is always. Because we deserve it. We are also honest, serious, dedicated and competent workers.”

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BALL – Enzo and Otamendi: world champion exceptions (Argentina)

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BALL - Enzo and Otamendi: world champion exceptions (Argentina)

Portuguese football has reason to rejoice as two more world champions will enter the national stages, the first to win the title as part of the Portuguese team, the only ones on the field yesterday, in Qatar, among 35 players who play in one of the top five leagues in the world, so called big 5.

Enzo Fernandez, 21-year-old midfielder, and Nicolás Otamendi, 34-year-old central defender, played 120 minutes for Argentina. would advance to the Argentine penalty as Montiel quickly put an end to doubts – and represented not only Benfica in the list of clubs of great prestige, but also a league of lesser expression, such as the Portuguese, the only one of the less media and powerful ones that had players in the final.

Neither in the starting lineup (see tables), nor in the 13 options used by the coaches – Montiel (Sevilla), Pezzella (Betis), Acuña (Sevilla), Leandro Paredes (PSG), Lautaro Martinez ( Inter) and Dybala (Roma) entered Argentina, from the French side they were also called Disasi (Monaco), Conate (Liverpool), Fofana (Monaco), Camavinga (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bavaria), Muani (Eintracht) and Thuram (Borussia). M’gladbach) – if they found other players who didn’t play in the leagues of England, Spain, Italy, France or Germany, that’s a clear sign of where the money and power come from to attract great players.
Some, like Enzo and Otamendi, are just over the top.ig 5 – if the midfielder was already in vogue among the richest in Europe, followed by Liverpool and Real Madrid, among others, now that he has won the World Cup and the best young player trophy in the competition … – but they shine enough to guarantee yourself a place in the best team in the world.

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