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The Portland Trail Blazers ran out of steam against the physical Indiana Pacers, finishing the long 7,000-mile East Coast road trip with an ugly 2-5 record. This is one of those games the team will erase from memory, and move on to the next game.
UPDATE: Nicolas Batum suffered an unseen injury during the game. Comcast Sportsnet's Chris Haynes says Batum injured his lower back going for a rebound in the First Quarter. He landed on his heel wrong and the pain shot up to his back.
The Blazers were led by November's NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Damian Lillard (23 points, 6 assists), Wesley Matthews (19 points), and LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals), with support from JJ Hickson (14 points, 12 rebounds). Meyers Leonard had a few highlight moments in front of his home crowd
First Quarter: This game started like all the others on this trip, with the Blazers going down by... wait, what? The Pacers called timeout after the Blazers took an 11-4 lead? Shiver me timbers. Soon it was 17-7. However, it couldn't last, as Indiana's bench roasted the Blazer subs, making the lead vanish in seconds. After a four-minute scoring drought, the Blazers still held a tenuous 1 point lead when the horn sounded.
hey we WON the first quarter! ugly ending but better than normal
Second Quarter: Who stopped the drought? Nolan Smith. He collapsed the D, then passed to Batum for an open three. He then dished to Leonard for a dunk, and followed it up with a layup of his own. However, after two quick Joel Freeland fouls and two consecutive turnovers, all Blazer momentum stopped. Indiana struggled to take advantage, so it looked like two prizefighters unable to gain control. Did I say prizefighters? I meant last-place fighters. The good news was is that Lillard was on fire in the first half, hitting his first five shots. However, Indiana's offensive boards kept Portland from pulling away. The Pacers finally took their first lead with 3 minutes left in the half as the Blazers went cold again. However, a Hickson offensive rebound and layup at the buzzer gave the Blazers a two-point halftime lead.
Just trading 3s all night. It's like Blazers vs. Blazers.
Who's gonna shoot themselves in the foot first?
Blazers will lose to the Blazers.
Third Quarter: The Blazers gave up easy points while bricking from the outside. Not a good start. Indiana grabbed the lead. When the lead reached 4, Portland took a timeout.
An aside. It's at this point it's time to discuss the elephant in the room tonight: The referees. They don't seem particularly biased toward one team tonight. However, for some reason, they've pulled the "we're not calling fouls" concept for this game. They called 10 fouls in the first half. Total. It's been years since I've seen a game where I've seen so many players holding their faces, arms, and other places where they were hammered, but needed to run up court because no call was made. Tyler Hansbrough was fouling with impunity during his second-quarter appearance (Leonard was hit in the nose three times in two minutes). One thing you like to see in the NBA: Consistency. You want it from your team. And you want it from the referees. But the calls in this game were inconsistent from any other game you see. It felt like the refs had an agenda, and you just didn't know what it was. Through three quarters, Indiana had "committed" 4 fouls in the entire game while playing very physical at both ends. Four. It was jarring, and is an example of why NBA refereeing gets a very bad reputation. However, as I noted in the Gameday Thread, "The refs aren't the reason the Blazers suck. The refs are the reason the refs suck". However, I'd have sure enjoyed seeing Portland and Indiana play a game using the "normal" NBA rules. Now, back to the game.
The Blazers came out of the timeout with a Batum/Hickson pick and roll, leading to a JJ dunk. He followed with a jumper and another dunk to keep Portland close. But the Blazers turned it over on the break, leading to a George Hill three-point momentum-killer. And that was it. The tired Blazers started to struggle, and were getting aggressively bodied around on the court (with no calls, as noted above). Soon, they were down 9 and needed a timeout. It didn't help, as the tired Blazers made repeated mental errors at both ends of court.
Indy's lead reached 15 at the end of the third, after they outscored Portland 31-14. They were all smiles headed to the bench.
what a long, strange [road]trip it's been...
Fourth Quarter: Portland inevitably attempted a comeback. Wesley Matthews personally cut the lead to single digits as Luke Babbitt came to the table. At the same time, suddenly the foul calls reappeared. Damian Lillard hit a layup to cut the lead to 4. Indy's jumpers started falling again, keeping Portland at bay. At one point, Hibbert drew blood from Lillard, but Lillard couldn't draw a foul on the play. Indiana slowly rebuilt their lead as the Blazers kept pushing, but ran out of time. They'll get a long flight home, and a couple nights' sleep in their own beds after a tough road trip.
While I've snarked about the absolutely abysmal refereeing tonight, the Blazers had long droughts of poor play. They were throwing the ball out of bounds, and missing the rim on shots, when they even got off a shot. While the refs weren't exactly great, they made poor calls on both teams, and the Blazers struggled on their own.
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis later. The next game is Friday night, finally at home against Sacramento. -- Tim