The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t always look so great doing it, but earned its third straight road win Saturday outlasting the struggling Charlotte Hornets 93-91 behind another strong defensive outing.
Much like against Orlando, neither team set the barn on fire offensively, making for the second slow, grind it out, outcome in question until the final minutes contest in as many nights for the Blazers. The Hornets shot especially poorly, hovering around the mid to low thirty percentage mark for most of the evening, but Portland long failed to find a way to turn that into an insurmountable advantage. Charlotte had several chances to steal this game back in the final 60 seconds - many self-inflicted by the Blazers - but some key plays willed Portland to hang on.
The Blazers held tight for most of the early going, but closed the first half on a 14-3 run to seize a 12 point lead that they would fight to hold on to the rest of the way.
CJ McCollum was close behind just about everything going right for Portland, leading the way with 25 points including four threes as about the only guy getting his outside shot going. Without McCollum, the Blazers wouldn’t have been in this one.
Still on a minutes restriction, Jusuf Nurkic made productive use of his time, finishing with 14 points and five boards, doing most of his damage in the pick and roll. Dwight Howard is not the interior defensive rock that he used to be, at times seemingly even ignoring Nurk as he attacked the rim. He made Charlotte pay.
Damian Lillard had somewhat of weird night - he turned in a near triple-double with 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but also seemed to be bothered after banging knees with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist late in the second quarter. In typical Lillard fashion, Dame finished the half canning three straight daggers from deep, alleviating some concern, but was held to just two points the rest of the way.
It was an off-night shooting for the recently hot Al-Farouq Aminu, who struggled with foul trouble and missed all but one of his seven attempts from the field, including all three from beyond the arc, but he did have the play of the game in the final minute blocking a layup attempt by Kemba Walker that would have given the Hornets the lead.
Walker had a tough going all night, shooting 7-26 and missing all nine of his threes for only 14 points. Instead the Charlotte offense was carried mostly by Nicolas Batum (23).
At the end of the day, you won’t see any of the Blazers complaining about another win on the road.
The Blazers get a night off before finishing off the five game road trip against the improved Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night at 5 p.m.