The Portland Trail Blazers refused to let it be easy, but yet again took care of business on the road to hold off a moderately inspired Charlotte Hornets squad 118-108 thanks to some heroics from Rodney Hood.
Portland looked as if they would run away with it from the get-go, opening up a 30-15 gash in the first quarter behind Damian Lillard, but Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to almost single-handedly salvage the afternoon for Charlotte. Lamb had 13 points in the quarter - more than the rest of his teammates - and perhaps lit a spark that turned what could have been a walk in the park blowout to something the Blazers had to work a little bit harder for.
The win propels Portland to a quite impressive 5-1 on their seven-game post-All-Star Game road trip, which will wrap up in Memphis on Tuesday, and 39-24 overall, moving (at least for now) one half game ahead of the suddenly struggling Oklahoma City Thunder into third place in the Western Conference standings. They remain undefeated with Enes Kanter in the lineup.
Random thoughts and takeaways
So Hood. It’s been somewhat of a rough go for Rodney Hood since joining the Blazers - he impressed with 14 points in his Feb. 7 debut against the Spurs, but since then had yet to put together a really game-altering performance, including making just two of his last 15 attempts from deep heading into Sunday. Any caution about that can be seemingly put to rest (at least for now), as Hood played the role of savior, putting the team on his back and rescuing Portland from the jaws of defeat. The Hornets had slowly seized back momentum after the initial Blazer surge and threatened to retake the lead early in fourth before Hood went absolutely bananas. Hood had 21 of his 27 points in the final frame - all 27 came in the second half - and when things were looking dire for Portland, he willed them to victory. Somewhere Neil Olshey is patting himself on the back.
Building a house. Aside from the likes of Hood and Lamb, the shooting from both sides stunk. Jusuf Nurkic - whose 26 points, 15 boards and 6 dimes shouldn’t be discounted - playground bullied the considerably size-disadvantaged Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo in the paint all afternoon, but when it came to anything resembling a jump shot neither side could get much going. CJ McCollum turned in easily one of his worst scoring performances of the season (6 points, 6 assists, 2-13 FGs) which went rather unnoticed as Charlotte mirrored with its own dysfunction - Kemba Walker struggled with 18 points on just 5-21 shooting. It was just a weird game.
The Blazers will (finally) end the road trip when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday evening at 5 p.m.