After demolishing the Warriors and willing themselves past the the Jazz following the All-Star break, things were supposed to a be a bit easier tonight, as far as opponents go, against the Brooklyn Nets. For a while, it appeared exactly that as the Blazers marched to a 19-point lead in the third. But, the Nets never quit and Brook Lopez helped lead a late charge to resurrect some early season ghosts for the Blazers.
The Blazers and Nets ended up trading leads well into the fourth quarter as any chance for an easy night faded away quickly. In the end, the Blazers were saved by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who both scored 34 for the night and led the Blazer late.
The Blazers were led by CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard with 34 points each. Mason Plumlee added 13 rebounds. The Nets were led by Brook Lopez with 36 points and 10 rebounds.
CJ McCollum led the Blazers for much of the first quarter as he and Al-Farouq Aminu took turns dishing assists and scoring. At one point, McCollum had 13 points to Brooklyn's 14. Myers Leonard, who had been missing since the All-Star break, was the first man off the bench for Portland to help counter Brook Lopez, one of the few legitimate weapons the Nets have offensively. Damian Lillard, silent most of the quarter, got hot late to push Portland's lead past 10. The quarter ended with a polite, golf crowd applause.
End of First: Portland 34, Brooklyn 21
After the Nets briefly cut the lead to single digits, Portland's second unit helped lead a charge that put the Blazers up by a more comfortable margin, playing more to their up-tempo style. Gerald Henderson and Allen Crabbe led the offense for the bench while McCollum continued his hot shooting. You kept waiting for Portland to run away with this game, but the Blazers briefly stopped doing things like running plays and having energy, keeping the Nets with reach. McCollum had 21 points at the half as Portland took a comfortable lead going into the third.
Halftime: Portland 63, Brooklyn 39
For many stretches in the third, both teams were about as exciting as one of those PBS exercise shows you see early in the morning. The Blazers continued to threaten to blow this one wide open, but just when you think it's about to happen, it appeared as if the Blazes just got bored and allowed Brooklyn to hang around. Aminu played with about as much energy as the entire Nets team, but Brooklyn cut the lead to just 74-63 with 5:30 to play. It didn't get any better as Portland went cold from the floor and Brook Lopez sprung to life like a Jack-in-the-Box to lead a late charge. Before you knew what happened, the Nets cut the lead to one before McCollum ended the half on a buzzer beater lay in. Still, this was a whole new ballgame, one in which the Blazers were poised to run away with earlier.
End of Third: Portland 85, Brooklyn 82
Portland's cold shooting transitioned into the fourth as the Nets took their first lead at 88-87. The Blazers couldn't muster the energy on either offense or defense and Lopez continued to dominate the inside as he neared 30 points overall early in the quarter. Sensing a potential upset, the Nets looked as lively as they have all game. It was a dogfight the rest of the way the Nets and Blazers traded leads late. Tied 101-101 with two minutes remaining, McCollum and Lillard hit back-to-back threes, putting both of them at 30 points for the night. But Lopez sliced the lead in half for the Nets after a second chance bucket and a foul. But the Blazers hold on as the Nets couldn't muster any offense in the final minute and the Blazers secure the home win. Whew.
The Blazers face an all-too-familiar foe Thursday night, taking on the Houston Rockets for their weekly meeting. Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Moda Center. It's the fourth (and final) time these two teams will meet in the regular season with Portland leading the series 2-1. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.