Afflalo back as Blazers face must-win scenario

Portland needs to find its offense in pivotal Game 3

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



TUALATIN, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers will have more hands on deck as their best-of-seven series against the Memphis Grizzlies shifts to the Pacific Northwest.

Shooting guard Arron Afflalo has been upgraded to probable for Saturday’s must-win Game 3 at the Moda Center as they face an 0-2 series deficit.

But reserve center Chris Kaman is questionable and “didn’t do anything” during Portland’s Friday practice according to head coach Terry Stotts.

“I know once I tape it and get the right drugs in me, everything will be good … I’m ready to play tomorrow,” Kaman told reporters.

Stotts was more cautious despite Kaman’s guarantee that he will play.

“We’ll see how he goes,” Stotts said.

Afflalo went through a rigorous one-on-one session against guard Tim Frazier where he could be seen taking quick jump shots, posting up and finishing at the basket with contact.

“It’s no time to get 100 percent,” Afflalo said of his situation. “You just go out there and give it your best . … I felt better. It was just good to compete.”

But in the observed time against Frazier, he didn’t take a 3-pointer but did get up a few long twos.

Afflalo, ever cryptic in his dealings with the media, was asked if he could shoot 3’s.

“Yeah, man,” he said before chuckling in front of the gathered reporters.

When asked by a reporter if he was lying, Afflalo said his range is “unlimited.”

Although the degree to which Afflalo will be effective is still in doubt, Stotts is looking forward to having Afflalo back.

Their offense has averaged an anemic 89 points per 100 possessions in the first two games of the series.

“We’ve struggled to score,” Stotts said. “Our offense hasn’t been what it needs to be. He’ll help that out.”

A signature night from one, or both of their two All-Stars, would also go a long way.

LaMarcus Aldridge has had hot quarters but is shooting 37 percent in the first two games. Damian Lillard hasn’t even gotten started, shooting 27 percent and a shocking 1-for-11 from long-range.

“Every shot that LA is getting is tough, every shot that I’m getting is tough,” Lillard said.

“(I need to) keep battling with Z-Bo (Zach Randolph), just try to keep his percentages low,” Aldridge said when asked what he needs to do. “Make more of my shots, which sounds easier than it is.

“I can’t start passing up shots. I still have to take my shot when it’s there.”

The Blazers went over their sets without any defense on Friday.

Ball-movement, in particular, was the focus.

“I want to get the ball moving more,” Stotts said. “Find it on the weak side. Just what I said about creating opportunities and getting a rhythm to our offense.”

For Meyers Leonard, one of the few Blazers to shoot well from the perimeter in the series, there has to be more trust in the system than the individual.

“Sometimes you think: if I’m open, I can make this play,” Leonard said “But then you realize, OK, it’s giving up a good shot for a great shot. You have to give up the good shot for the great shot and believe in what got us here: unselfish basketball.”

Having Afflalo back should help Portland’s offense by giving them another playmaker.

Additionally, Afflalo brings playoff experience on the wing that the Blazers haven’t had in the first two games of the series outside of Nicolas Batum.

Batum is wary that the Blazers cannot rely too heavily on coming back to the friendly confines of the Moda Center.

“That could be a huge mistake if we do that,” he said. “They want to close this series in the next two games. We know that.”

No team in NBA history has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.

“We understand what’s at stake,” Afflalo said.