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Trail Blazers Ride Bench To Overcome Shaky Start, Beat Pacers

Portland’s second unit, led by Zach Collins, stole the show in a 103-93 victory in Indianapolis.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers bounced back from a lackadaisical performance against the Miami Heat to knock off a quality Indiana Pacers team 103-93 on Monday, led by a career-high 17 points from Zach Collins. On a night when two-thirds of their big three couldn’t get anything going, the Blazers bench gave the team a huge jolt, spurring the impressive road win. Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

After an extremely rough start to the game, thanks to whistle-happy officiating and poor shooting, the Blazers second unit keyed a big run to give Portland the lead after one quarter of play. Subsequently, the Pacers used a 13-2 run to finish the second quarter to take a four-point lead into the half. Things remained neck-and-neck heading into the fourth, when the Blazers rode the hot hands of Collins and CJ McCollum to jump back out to the lead. Damian Lillard knocked down the game-icing three-pointer with under a minute remaining to seal the victory.

Collins, Swanigan Shine

After Jusuf Nurkic picked up two fouls within the first two minutes, and Meyers Leonard picked up three of his own in the first quarter, things looked bleak for the already short-handed Blazers, playing without Maurice Harkless due to injury.

However, Collins was able to shoulder the load all night long, and turned in a signature performance. He finished the night shooting 7-10, showed off a variety of post moves, and continued his excellence on the defensive end of the court. He was a go-to scoring option in the fourth quarter, and deserves a ton of credit for the win.

Perhaps even more impressive, given that he was playing his first meaningful minutes of the season, was the effort of Caleb Swanigan. Biggie answered the call, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes. He looked solid on offense, and was able to contribute on defense down the stretch despite playing with five fouls for much of the fourth quarter.

The Other Guys

It wasn’t just Collins and Swanigan that made it happen for the Blazers’ second unit, however. They outscored the Pacers bench 54-14, with Nik Stauskus and Evan Turner also stepping up in a major way. Stauskus finished with 10 points, with all three of his makes seemingly coming at times the team really needed a bucket. He also added three rebounds and five assists.

Turner remains the maestro of the bench unit and was able to do a little bit of everything tonight. In addition to 13 points and eight rebounds, he added three assists and was able to keep everyone involved as the primary ball handler off the pine.

Cleaning It Up

Portland had 11 turnovers in the first half, and the Pacers made then pay by converting the giveaways into points. The Blazers recovered in the second half, recording only seven turnovers, to give them 18 on the night. The Pacers finished with 20 points off of those turnovers, with the majority of the damage done in the first half. Indiana only gave the ball away nine times in the game themselves.

Coming Down to Earth

After back-to-back 40 point performances, Damian Lillard finished with a pedestrian 16 tonight on 5-13 shooting, including 2-7 from distance. He only scored two points in the entire first half, on a layup with 1.7 second left.

That being said, he should be commended for deferring to teammates on a night he didn’t have it going, instead of trying to force his way out of a shooting slump. He basically single-handedly beat the Magic, and engineered the comeback against the Heat, so it was encouraging to see others, notably Collins and McCollum, step up offensively.

Masters of the Midway

Of the Pacers’ 70 field goal attempts, just 19 of them came from behind the three-point arc. They were able to get the majority of their offense in the midrange, with both Darren Collison and Oladipo effectively using the high screen to get open jumpers. You’ve got to figure that the Blazers were OK with this for the most part, as the team shot only shot 31% from deep, and 41% overall. Indiana’s 93 points was a season-low for a Blazers opponent, and marked the first the Blazers held a team to under the century mark this season.


-Jusuf Nurkic knocked down his first career three in the third quarter:

-Promising youngster Domantas Sabonis, the son of former Blazer and basketball hall-of-famer Arvydas Sabonis, finished with six points and eight rebounds off the Pacers bench.

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Up Next

The Blazers (4-2) conclude their road trip against the James Harden-less Houston Rockets tomorrow night, with tip-off scheduled for 5 pm PT.