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Lillard sets the tone for Blazers in Game 3 win

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The 3-pointer against the Houston Rockets Jerseys with nine-tenths of a second remaining in Game 6 of the 2014 first round was more concussive because it won the series and sent the Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys to the Western Conference semifinals. Averaging 25.3 points while shooting 49.1 percent over the final three meetings with the Memphis Grizzlies Jerseys in the 2015 first round was a defining statement because it was prolonged stardom.

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Damian Lillard’s Saturday night, though. It was his typical playoff clutch even without a dagger in the final second. And his 32 points all may be misplaced amid the 21 rebounds and nine assists from Mason Plumlee, the 27 points from C.J. McCollum and Portland’s 96-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Jerseys at Moda Center that got the Trail Blazers within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

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Lillard Leads All Scorers

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Damian Lillard leads the Trail Blazers to a win in Game 3 scoring 32 points and adding 5 rebounds.

But make no mistake. What happened as the Blazers at the very least guaranteed a trip back to L.A. for a Game 5, with the chance to pull into a tie with the Clippers here on Monday night, was anything but understated. It was nothing less than the latest step in Lillard’s evolution into a superstar, turning this into a moment that will mean something into the future for a franchise with renewed optimism even if it ends up meaning nothing in these playoffs.

For all the postseason memories he cheap jerseys com had already stacked up by age 25, having long ago proved more clutch than a lot of players with triple the experience, there had never been dependable performances like this. LaMarcus Aldridge had been around before, Nicolas Batum too and sometimes Wesley Matthews. In the spring of 2016, though, the Blazers are unquestionably Lillard’s team and so it was on him and mostly him alone to stare down the 0-2 deficit. It’s what a dependable leader does. It’s especially what a dependable leader does after missing 26 of 39 shots those previous two games.

Lillard knew it and rather than shrink from the moment he accepted the responsibility. He wanted it. He had not played well in the first two games and the plan was to do something about it, because stars respond in the playoffs.

Not simply going for redemption in the form of the 32 points, a game high, while making 10 of 20 field goals and all nine free throws, Lillard charged at the pressure. The opening tip was like a starter pistol going off. There was an immediate energy, an example for the other Blazers to emulate whether his shot came around or not.

“His leadership really set the tone, I thought,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “He was taking charges. He was all over the place, flying all over the court, but him being very aggressive early definitely set the tone for them and the rest of team followed.”

The sense of urgency to have a big night came from none other than Lillard himself, aware not only that he didn’t generate much offense the first two games as the Trail Blazers labored to just 95 and 81 points after averaging 105.1 in the regular season. But it was worse than his poor shooting of 33 percent during the first two games in Los Angeles. He was struggling to get involved as the Clippers’ defense took him out of the game for long stretches.

By the time the Blazers practiced Friday, Lillard was openly noting how “I know I’ve got to be big in the next game” and “I struggled shooting the ball in the first two games. They’re giving me a lot of attention. They’re making it hard. When I do get good opportunities I’ve got to knock those shots down. I’ve got to do a better job getting the ball out of the double teams. Stuff like that.” There was solace in at least getting good looks early in Game 2, as opposed to Lillard not being able to find any opening, but also the counter that, bottom line, he wasn’t making many.

The Blazers by all indications were remaining positive after losing by 20 and 21 points in L.A., maybe because they had just spent about nine months in a similar situation, counted out since July as four of the five 2014-15 starters left as free agents or in trade and Lillard, the leftovers and replacements were talked down to about their impending lottery life. Being down in the series and being down emotionally were two different things.

“Because it happens,” Lillard said when asked how 33.3 percent and 0-2 had not put him in a bad place. “I think if you put anybody in that position, getting the type of attention that I’m getting, it’s like I literally can’t get a good look some times. All season long they’ve been pretty much the only team to trap me this way. And they’ve taken it up. They trap higher on the court and in more situations than they even did in the regular season. I’m sure of myself, you know what I mean? Sometimes you just don’t make shots. Sometimes teams have good game plans and when you take good shots and you don’t make them it turns into a bad-shooting game. It’s been two games where I haven’t shot well. The first game I didn’t get a lot of attempts up. But last game I came out, I was trying to be aggressive, it didn’t go in.”

While he was counting on all the Blazers to play better with the series now in Portland, Lillard didn’t wait for the energy boost delivered by one of the league’s best fan bases, amped even more than usual for the start of a game by McCollum being presented with the Most Improved Player award at midcourt a few minutes before tipoff. The crowd roared. Then Lillard did.

He quickly took control by aggressively looking for his shot, trying to put the Blazers where they need to be: his shoulders. Lillard had 12 points in the first 11 minutes, and a tone was set.

“The start that he got off to, I think it lifted everybody up because he didn’t shoot the ball well in the first two games and the fact that he got us going just encouraged everybody, like ‘We’re going to be OK,’ ” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “As far as the other things, his leadership — I’ve spoken about this before — his leadership in the huddles, not letting up, encouraging guys when he wasn’t in the game, allowing C.J. to have the game that he had. Just a lot of different things that you need from your best player.”

The Blazers had gotten some of these different thing from Lillard before. Never like this, though. Never when it was his team in the playoffs, never when he needed a personal recovery while also trying to show an entire team the way. There had never been postseason clutch like this.

Trail Blazers vs. Clippers Game 4 Preview

The GameTime crew takes a look ahead to Game 4 of the Trail Blazers and Clippers Western Conference first round series.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

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Fantasy Friday: 16 New Year’s resolutions for 2016

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Welcome to 2016, fantasy owners. This is your chance to regroup and rebuild your roster.

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With the official midway point of the fantasy hockey season just days away, it’s time for you to give your team an honest assessment. Where can you improve? Do you have an abundance of goals? If so, maybe you should deal one of those goal-scorers for someone who cheap jerseys usa helps in another category you’re lacking. Is your goalie tandem really strong in save percentage but not getting you the wins you need? Maybe you should consider trading one of them for a goalie on a better team that can get you wins but might not have as strong a save percentage.

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There are plenty of options and potential solutions. But now is the time to address the areas you might cheap jerseys usa need via trade or free agency. Don’t be afraid to make changes, even if they seem bold.

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In order to help you try and find some trade targets (or players to avoid), here’s a look at 16 New Year’s resolutions for 16 different players (in no particular order). Many of these players could end up being the difference between first place and second place in your league.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins – I will raise my shooting percentage.

Crosby currently has nine goals on 106 shots for a shooting percentage of 8.5. That percentage is easily the lowest of his career, with his career average at 14.1 percent. Expect this number to rise in the second half of the season and for Crosby to start scoring more goals.

2. Corey Perry Jerseys, Anaheim Ducks – I will shoot the puck more.

Perry has 96 shots on goal in 36 games this season. That’s 2.67 per game. Prior to this season, he averaged 3.07 shots in 722 games. Simply put, Perry needs to be shooting the puck more. If he does, his goal total should increase as well.

3. Mark Giordano Jerseys, Calgary Flames – I will continue to perform like I have over the past 30 days.

Giordano ranks 39th among defenseman in Yahoo leagues with 10 goals, 10 assists and a minus-10 rating. But over the past 30 days he has been the eighth best fantasy defenseman with five goals, seven assists and a plus-4. That’s more like it.

4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers – I will perform like I did for the first 30 days of the season.

In nine October starts, Lundqvist was 5-2-2 with a .943 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.87 goals-against average (GAA). In 10 December starts, he was 4-5-1 with a .892 SV% and a 3.27 GAA. It has been a tale of two different players this season for Lundqvist. Fantasy owners need the early season King to return.

5. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks – I will stay healthy.

This one isn’t a performance issue. It has just been a matter of bad luck for the 26-year-old forward, who has suffered two different injuries that have kept him out of 30 of the Sharks’ 36 games this season. At the start of this season, I ranked Couture 26th among all players in my preseason fantasy rankings. He has tremendous potential, he just needs to stay on the ice.

6. Ryan Johansen Jerseys, Columbus Blue Jackets – I will get out of John Tortorella’s doghouse.

Johansen reached a low point in his young NHL career when he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 17 for new head coach John Tortorella. In the five games since the benching, Johansen has three assists and also dropped the gloves with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vladimir Namestnikov, perhaps winning over Tortorella to a degree. Overall, Johansen has six goals and 25 points in 36 games for Columbus, but if he can remain on his coach’s good side, there’s reason to believe Johansen will turn his season around in the second half.

7. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning – I will score more goals.

Hedman has two goals in 37 games this season, or 0.05 per game. Last season, he had 10 goals in 59 games (0.17 goals-per-game), and in 2013-14, he had 13 goals in 75 games (also 0.17 goals per game). The good thing is, Hedman is shooting the puck more than he did last season and almost as frequently as he did in 2013-14. The goals will start coming.

8. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators – I will increase my save percentage.

Last season Rinne had a .923 SV%. This season it sits at .907. His career average is .918. The Predators are allowing just 26.9 shots against per game, second best in the NHL. They just need Rinne to stop more of them.

9. John Tavares, New York Islanders – I will increase my power play production.

Tavares had 31 power-play points last season, tied for fifth most in the NHL. This season he has eight power-play points, despite the fact he’s averaging almost the same power play ice time per game as last season.

10. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens – I will improve my plus-minus rating.

Pacioretty was tied for the NHL lead with a plus-38 rating last season. This season he’s a minus-1, including a minus-10 in 14 games during December.

11. Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings – I will distribute the puck more frequently.

In his first season with the Red Wings, Green has 11 assists in 32 games. That puts him on pace for 26 assists this season. Last season, with the Washington Capitals, Green had 35 assists in 72 games (tied for 17th most among defensemen).

12. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets – I will be my team’s No. 1 goalie for the rest of this season.

Hellebuyck has started eight of the past nine games for the Jets. Even with veteran goalie Ondrej Pavelec nearing a return from injury and Michael Hutchinson’s emergence from last season, Hellebuyck should be viewed as the team’s starting goalie, and deservedly so. In 11 starts this season, he’s 7-4-0 with a 2.11 GAA, .926 SV% and one shutout.

13. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers – I will continue to thrive alongside Taylor Hall.

Eleven players average at least one point per game (at least 10 games played). Fifth on that list, behind Patrick Kane Jerseys of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators is Draisaitl at 1.07 points per game. The 20-year-old has nine goals and 22 assists in 29 games with nearly 50 percent of his ice time coming alongside Hall (according to, who also averages more than a point per game.

14. Kyle Palmieri Jerseys, New Jersey Devils – I will continue to have a career year.

Palmieri already has set a career-high with 16 goals and is three points away from setting a new high in that category. He’s on pace for 34 goals and 62 points. Palmieri’s ranked 30th among all players in Yahoo fantasy leagues and could be considered the biggest surprise in the game to this point. Can he keep it going?

15. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres – I will lead all rookies in points by season’s end.

Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin leads the rookie race with 34 points in 39 games. Eichel sits 11 points behind Panarin with 23 points in 38 games. However, the month of December was Eichel’s most productive, with 11 points in 14 games.

16. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars – I will win a second straight Art Ross Trophy.

Benn is four points behind Kane for the scoring lead with 52 points in 39 games. After recording a career-high 87 points last season en route to his first Art Ross title, Benn is on pace for 108 points. Is there a more fun and complete player to own in fantasy hockey? I don’t think so.