The Trail Blazers suffered their fifth loss in six games after falling to the Pacers on Thursday. Indiana held on to a 106-100 lead thanks to a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double from Domantas Sabonis. For the Blazers, CJ McCollum and Gary Trent Jr. combined for 48 points. Despite facing a double-digit deficit late in the fourth quarter, coach Terry Stotts’ squad cut the Pacers’ lead to three points before a three-pointer from Myles Turner hammered the final nail into the coffin.
Loss aside, the Blazers’ depleted roster displayed resilience on the road.
The Blazers’ offense struggled to find any replicable success through the first six minutes of action. Portland’s shooters failed to generate space on the perimeter, in the post and working out of isolation. Their stalled progress fueled a mid-quarter 6-0 run from the Pacers. Following a much-needed timeout, the Blazers looked to Carmelo Anthony to get things rolling. The savvy veteran obliged and immediately added to Domantas Sabonis’ early foul trouble. After two quick fouls, Sabonis exited after just seven minutes.
On offense, the Pacers weaved around screens and through sets to generate high-percentage looks throughout the opening frame. The rebounding and turnover battle was tight early, but Indiana’s 61.9 field goal percentage proved to be the difference. The Pacers finished the quarter with a 30-24 advantage.
Following 12 minutes of less-than-ideal defense, the Blazers decided to get creative. Buoyed by the switch-friendly play of Wenyen Gabriel and Nassir Little, Portland’s defense alternated between man-to-man coverage and zone looks. In the middle, Caleb Swanigan kept the Pacers off the glass. That combination of frontcourt play took the wind out of Indiana’s sails.
Swanigan, who recorded six points in the frame, forced Sabonis back to the bench by absorbing a charge from the former Gonzaga standout. Alongside an improved defensive showing, CJ McCollum fueled the offense. He notched eight points in the quarter, giving the Blazers a 49-43 lead at halftime.
Victor Oladipo emerged from a quiet first half to pull the Pacers out of their funk on offense. Much like the looks Indiana enjoyed in the first half, Oladipo worked off screens from Myles Turner and Sabonis to connect on shots inside the arc. Energized by Oladipo’s scoring, the Pacers pulled off a 9-0 run in the middle of the quarter to level the score at 60.
McCollum’s shot wasn’t falling like it was in the first half, but that didn’t prevent him from getting others involved. Whiteside and Trent Jr. both knocked down open attempts created by the extra attention McCollum garnered. Thanks to a double-digit quarter from Oladipo, the Pacers finished the third quarter ahead 80-75.
The Pacers’ offense shifted from Oladipo’s hot hand to a paint-centric focus. Indiana took the ball into the post and found success for the majority of the quarter. The Blazers’ defensive struggles were compounded by a lack of timely rebounding. Thanks to easy looks and second-chance opportunities, the Pacers pushed their lead to 12 points after five minutes of play.
Regardless of a double-digit deficit in a hard-fought game, the Blazers put together one final push in the final three minutes. Trent Jr. was tenacious on both ends of the court, Whiteside recorded points at the rim and McCollum exploited individual matchups. Portland cut the lead to three points with just under 30 seconds left. With the stage set for a miraculous comeback, Myles Turner dashed the Blazers’ hopes. Late in the shot clock, Sabonis kicked the ball out to his frontcourt partner for a clutch three-point conversion. The Pacers escaped with a 106-100 victory.
New Looks, Young Faces
The Blazers’ reserves put together a solid first half. Gabriel and Little showed off their versatility and Anfernee Simons had his shot clicking early. Outside of that trio, Swanigan was patient and effective on offense. The second half generated a much different result, but there were positive signs in the second quarter.
Swanigan finished with six points and five rebounds in 13 minutes of action.
Trent Jr. Provides a Silver Lining
Losing is never ideal, but Trent’s emergence in a feature role has the potential to impact Portland’s moves heading into next season. The former Duke standout went toe-to-toe with Oladipo throughout the night and finished the opportunities that were presented to him.
When the Blazers return to full strength, Trent’s floor spacing will boost the entire squad’s output. He finished with 20 points and five rebounds on Thursday.
The Blazers face the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday.