The Portland Trail Blazers made it rain against the Charlotte Hornets, setting a franchise record with a whopping 24 made three-pointers while snapping a four-game losing streak in a rowdy 123-111 blowout at the Moda Center.
From the get-go, it seemed as if the Blazers’ strategy was to bait the Hornets into a three-point contest, because why not? With just a couple games left before the All-Star break, Portland is committed to dance with the one that brought them. Both sides traded heaves early in the shot clock, with Damian Lillard and LaMelo Ball doing most of the damage, to a near-standstill midway through the first quarter. At that point, Charlotte broke out of its Scarlet-Witch-like trance and remembered that there is 20-plus feet of space between the arc and the basket. The Hornets then proceeded to declare war on the rim, attacking it with the impunity given only by knowing that the Blazers and basically what amounts to a slowly moving cardboard cutout of Enes Kanter would do little to try and stop them, and stop them they did not. Portland couldn’t keep Bismack Biyombo and Malik Monk out of the paint and quickly found themselves down 10 at 33-23 with just a minute go. Lillard and Robert Covington helped stop the bleeding in the final seconds, but the Blazers had their work cut out for them. Charlotte led 33-27 after one.
Never deterred, Portland made a trip to the ATM, marched back to the roulette table and bet the house on threes again. The second unit bombed away from deep like they were trying to unlock the marksman perk in NBA2K, with Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood now joining in on the action. The Blazers canned seven treys in the quarter while the Hornets started to show signs of cooling off. While Anthony’s effort was more of the success through volume variety, he did manage to force Charlotte’s hand with some good old fashioned bully-ball, scoring six straight points, all near the basket or from the free throw line to help Portland regain a 43-40 advantage. From there, both teams reverted to trading threes back and forth, with Robert Covington going a perfect 4-4 from beyond the arc in the half to set up a tie at 59 heading into the break.
The Blazers started to ratchet things up defensively, holding the Hornets without a basket for nearly the first three minutes of the third quarter. They did it mostly just by hunkering down and letting Charlotte shoot themselves out the game. As the Hornets’ outside shooting waned, Lillard and Kanter dusted off the two-man game and went to work. If defenders tried to trap Lillard in the high pick-and-roll, he’d float a pass down the lane to a wide-open Kanter near the hoop. If defenders backed off, he knock down a step-back three in their face. The abuse to the Charlotte gameplan was downright disrespectful, as Dame, who had been relatively quiet up to that point, just took full control of the game and put Portland in a comfortable position heading into the final frame leading 92-83.
A nine-point lead suddenly ballooned to 19, as the second unit came out on fire. Like a band that performs the same song for the opener as well as the encore, the Blazers closed out the game by rocking the timeless anthem of the three. Four deep connections in near succession to open the period turned this one from a nail-biter to a laugher. Ball and his 30 points managed to keep things interesting, but the Hornets never recovered and Portland was able to cruise to victory. Carmelo Anthony had 17 of his 29 points in the quarter, and perhaps fittingly knocked down the record-setting three with just under a minute to go.
Robert Covington had his best game as a Blazer, finishing a near-perfect 8-9 from the floor (5-6 3PT) for 21 points to go along with 10 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was also a team-best +21 on the evening. His shot was falling all night and that just seemed to propel is already tenacious effort on defense. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
Twin brothers Cody and Caleb Martin gave us a nearly perfect “Parent Trap” game, with twin brothers subbing in and out for each other for most of the game, beard, man bun and all.
The Blazers’ franchise record of 24 threes came on 52.2% shooting from the arc.
The Blazers will get a day off before hosting the Golden State Warriors Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m.