In Nicolas Batum's first return to the Moda Center, the Blazers beat the short handed Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets were coming off a blowoff loss against the Utah Jazz while the Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings in their last game. It was a close game until the Blazers started to pull away late in the third quarter and held off a late Hornet rally for the win, 109-91.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 22 points and Allen Crabbe with 20. Marvin Williams scored 20 for the Hornets while Tyler Hansbrough came off the bench to record 12 points and 13 rebounds. The familiar Boo-tum from last season seemed to show up in place of Batum and finished 1-11 from the field but had 8 assists . Defense stalwart Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his season debut and finished with 13 points and his usual stellar defense.
Both teams came out with some energy and the Hornets were boosted by Kidd-Gilchrist's defense in his first appearance of the season. He guarded CJ McCollum and CJ looked as uncomfortable as he has been all season. Noah Vonleh made some nice plays early against his old team including an athletic dunk off a pick and roll. Lillard led the Blazers with 7 points topped off by a SportsCenter worthy dunk over Tyler Hansbrough. Neither team shot particular well from the field but five Hornet threes kept them on top.
End of First: Portland 21 Charlotte 25
Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum hit a few quick threes to put the Blazers back on top. The Hornets started finding some success with Batum showing off his playmaking to nostalgic Blazer fans. He finished the half with 4 assists but only shot 1-6 from the field. He also committed 3 turnovers. Both teams battled hard for the boards with Ed Davis battling former college teammate Hansbrough with mixed results. The Hornets struggled with their shooting but a few nice plays by Kemba Walker kept the Hornets within five at the break. Walker led the Hornets with 11 points. Lillard finished the half with 10 and Crabbe came off the bench to chip in 9.
Halftime: Portland 50 Charlotte 45
The Blazers and Hornets traded buckets to start the third. Marvin Williams scored 8 in a row for the Hornets but McCollum shook off a slow first half to hit a variety of pull ups and layups to keep the Blazers ahead by 5 halfway through the quarter. Batum continued to struggle and the Hornets couldn't find any offense outside of Williams. Two three point plays by Crabbe and series of big Lillard plays gave the Blazers a 14 point lead going into the fourth.
End of Third: Portland Charlotte
The Blazers started the quarter strong, hitting their first four shots and pushing the lead to 20. Just when it looked like it was over, the Hornets bench made a run with Hansbrough getting his hands on some rebounds. A floater by Marvin Williams pushed the Blazer lead to 12 with 6 minutes remaining. Every loose ball and rebound were hounded by both teams as the officials seemed to let the little fouls go. The relentless led to offensive rebounds for the Hornets and nearly got them back in the game but a three point play by Aminu and a free throw line floater by Lillard put the game out of reach.
The Blazers return to action on Sunday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tipoff is 6pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.