The Portland Trail Blazers looked sluggish and out of sorts Thursday, struggling on both ends of the court on the way to a 111-87 rout at the hands of the Indiana Pacers at the Moda Center.
The night following a record setting performance from beyond the arc, Portland only managed to shoot a paltry 36% from the floor (along with just 30% from deep), and their 87 points is by the far the team’s lowest output of the season.
But the real letdown of the evening happened midway through the third quarter when Jusuf Nurkic exited the game with what was later announced as a fractured right wrist, apparently suffered after taking a bad swipe at the ball on defense, although the exact moment still remains to be determined. Details about the extent of the break along with any notion of recovery time will come out soon, but this is without a doubt a massive blow to a team that has expectations to compete deep into the playoffs.
From the onset, it should have been apparent that storm clouds were brewing. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and especially following up Wednesday’s barn burner against the Kings where Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had to fight tooth and nail for a combined 85 minutes, you’d have to wonder if fatigue would be a factor tonight. Early on at least that didn’t seem to be the case, as the two teams battled to a standstill in the fist quarter, setting up what looked to be a another tense journey down ulcer gulch.
It quickly became anything but. Electing to give his most valuable players a rest, Terry Stotts opened the second period with a lineup of Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood, Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter, leaving Lillard and McCollum riding the pine together for nearly five minutes. In those five minutes, the Blazers were outscored 12-2 as Doug McDermott came off the bench on fire for the Pacers. The second unit found no offensive rhythm at all, settling for contested Carmelo Anthony isolations and Hail Mary three attempts. By the time McCollum and later Lillard checked back in with 4:57 remaining in the half, Indiana held a 12-point lead and looked to be in full control.
From there, things went from bad to worse. Portland, who has been among the league leaders at taking care of the basketball, couldn’t take care of the rock if it was their mother, getting stripped 7 times in the first half and turning the ball over 10 times as the Pacer lead ballooned as much as 25 points. Domantas Sabonis gave fans flashbacks of his father, putting on a show in the post on his way to 23 points, 15 boards and 5 assists.
The Blazers made a few runs in the second half to at least make things look respectable, and pulled as close as 11 late in the third quarter, but yet another roaring comeback just wasn’t in them.
The Blazers will get a day off before hosting the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Pacific.