The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t look pretty as they faced the Indiana Pacers on Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Neither Damian Lillard nor CJ McCollum topped 20 points. Portland’s starters played with the consistency of day-old Cream o’ Wheat. The Pacers didn’t flourish on offense, but they had the defensive game locked down, limiting Portland’s three-point attempts and offensive rebounds. But just when things looked bleakest for the Blazers, their bench crew arrived. Indiana had no answer for Portland’s reserves and the Blazers took a 103-93 road victory.
Zach Collins sparked Portland’s surge, shooting 7-10 from the floor for 17 points while playing stout defense. Nik Stauskas added a timely 10 on 3-6 shooting, Evan Turner 13 while shooting 6-9.
The Blazers started the game sloppy, with positioning and spacing slightly off. Combined with a referee crew eager to whistle screen infractions, this resulted in almost every Portland big man getting in foul trouble. Jusuf Nurkic, Meyers Leonard, and Caleb Swanigan combined for 9 fouls in the first half.
Unsurprisingly, given the above, interior defense proved a problem in the halfcourt during key stretches. The Blazers had to play strange lineups and it showed. One would expect that smaller men on the floor would result in better transition defense, though. That didn’t materialize, as the Pacers scored 14 off the break in the first half. Fortunately the Pacers shoot like a bunch of Star Wars villains, so Portland survived the mediocre first-half showing. They shored up their issues in the second half (hitting more shots helped) and ended up winning the points-in-the-paint battle 40-32.
Caleb Swanigan played 19 minutes, largely due to the aforementioned foul trouble. He scored 9 points in 14 first-half minutes, 11 total for the game with 10 rebounds, 3 turnovers, and 5 personal fouls.
The Blazers dominated the boards, winning the overall rebounding battle 50-35. This came largely from 53 missed Indiana shots, but 26 rebounds from the bench sure helped.
The Blazers play the Houston Rockets tomorrow night at 5:00, Pacific in Houston.