The Portland Trail Blazers took down the Indiana Pacers in a shootout 139-129 on what will go down as one of the most somber and tragic days in NBA history. Damian Lillard poured in 50 points for the second time in three days, becoming the first Blazer to score 50 three times in a season. CJ McCollum scored 28 points in his return while Hassan Whiteside put up 21 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
Portland gave up a triple double to Domantas Sabonis (27 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists) as well as 28 points to Jeremy Lamb.
The game started with both teams paying their respects to a basketball legend, with the Blazers taking a 24 second violation and the Pacers an eight second one in honor of Kobe Bryant. Damian Lillard wasted no time in this quarter getting going . His ability to get to the free throw line helped, as he took eight free throws and made seven of them to get to 17 points by the end of the first. His scoring ability put Indiana in a difficult situation; either make it easier for Lillard to drive and score or give up the kick. With CJ McCollum back, it’s not exactly ideal to give up threes if you’re Indiana. Blazers led after one 36-27.
It was a lot of Dame and CJ in the first half. McCollum wasted no time getting back into the swing of things. He was aggressive in searching for his shot, shooting 13 shots and making six of them for 15 points. The usually assist-averse Blazers also did a good job generating points off of passes. They had 14 assists at the break, nine of those coming from Lillard. It helps when the three ball is falling. The Blazers went into the break shooting 6-13 from outside, five of those coming from McCollum and Lillard. The struggles against skilled big men continued, as Sabonis had 18 points by the end of the half, but Portland’s ability to control the boards (24 rebounds to Indiana’s 15) and tempo helped the Blazers to a 66-56 lead going into the half. Lillard led all scorers with 23.
So. Many. Threes. The Blazers went 8-12 from deep in the third quarter. Lillard’s ability to drive and kick continued to benefit the Blazers. The more buckets Lillard poured in, the more he forced the Pacers to collapse on him, leaving open other Blazers for three. It also helped that Lillard continued to pull up from wherever he pleased. It wasn’t just threes. Portland just couldn’t miss in general. They entered the quarter shooting 48% from the field. They ended the quarter shooting 58.5% and 56.5% from three. Indiana actually did a good job penetrating the Portland defense and getting quality looks, but it didn’t matter because Portland just wouldn’t miss. A high-octane third quarter put the score at 106-93.
The threes didn’t stop in the final quarter. McCollum and Gary Trent Jr. got things started with back to back threes as Portland ended the game 20-of-35 from outside. But the Pacers kept making their push offensively. They had success getting in the paint and then kicking to the outside. Whiteside’s tendency to chase just about any block made it a lot easier for players like TJ McConnell to kick out to shooters like Doug McDermott. But once again, Indiana’s effectiveness on offense was nullified by Lillard as he launched deep three after deep three and sealed this game for Portland. The Blazers just outshot the Pacers, taking this one 139-129.
Sharing is Caring
It is well documented that the Blazers are very iso-heavy and not exactly known for racking up assists. They rank dead last in assists per game at 19.7. Someone forgot to tell the Blazers that as they racked up 27 assists, 13 of those coming from Lillard. It seemed like Dame could do whatever he wanted (which was true), but it helped that Portland did a good job sharing the ball.
Man was it nice to have another scorer on the floor. CJ transformed into 3J, putting up 28 points while shooting 6-of-8 from three. He was a much-needed second option for Lillard, doing what CJ does and finding different ways to create his own shot. Lillard was obviously the main reason Portland won, but the Blazers needed McCollum tonight.
Damian Lillard just won’t stop
Lillard is playing like he knows that this team needs him to score a million a night if they want to make the playoffs. He’s scored 158 points(!) over the last three games. He’s averaging 52.6 points a game over the last three games. He’s 19-of-35 from three, each shot seemingly more impossible than the last and still going in. Miles Custis wrote before the game not to expect Dame to continue averaging 50. Turns out he might be wrong (at least for now).
Portland faces off against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Tip off is at 7 p.m. PT.