The Portland Trail Blazers found themselves in yet another double-digit, second half hole early in the third quarter on Wednesday night. And as they’ve done multiple times already this season, the team hit the comeback trail to pull away from the Charlotte Hornets on their way to a 105-95 victory at Spectrum Center. It was an up-and-down performance from the road team, but they buckled down when it mattered most to improve to 8-3 on the year, while handing the Hornets their sixth consecutive loss in the process.
Damian Lillard shook off a slow start to finish with a game-high 26 points, and played a critical role in the comeback effort. He was joined in double-figure scoring by teammates Anfernee Simons, Drew Eubanks, and rookie Shaedon Sharpe.
All five Hornets starters scored at least 10 points, led by the 18 of Terry Rozier, though the team shot just 37% from the floor overall. Top players Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., and PJ Washington combined to go just 14-51 from the field.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key takeaways from Wednesday’s win.
Dame Leads Rally
The Blazers were down 12 with 7:09 remaining in the third quarter, when an exhasperated coach Chauncey Billups called time-out following a 19-2 Hornets run to begin the second half. It proved to be the high-water mark for Charlotte on the night, and ushered in an early edition of “Dame Time”.
Lillard, who was scoreless in the first quarter before dropping 14 in the second, connected on a trio of clutch threes to help bring the Blazers all the way back. He assisted on two other shots, and scored or assisted on 16 of Portland’s 28 pivotal points in the frame. In the process, he passed both Shawn Marion and Magic Johnson on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and now sits at 83rd in league history in career points.
Damian Lillard passes Magic Johnson on the all-time scoring list with a logo-distance three.— David Deckard (@DaveDeckard) November 10, 2022
Next Man Up
With Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant out with minor injuries, Eubanks and Justise Winslow were inserted into the starting lineup. While Winslow had a relatively quiet night by his recent standards, Eubanks made his presence known from the jump. He scored eight of the team’s first ten points. While all of his points came in the paint, he was effective in a variety of ways—scoring off the pick-n-roll, post-ups, and second chance opportunities.
In addition, Drew’s defensive presence in the paint improved throughout the course of the game, despite a shaky start. All told, the big man recorded season highs of 14 points (on 6-7 shooting), eight rebounds and three blocks.
It wasn’t just the new starters that took advantage of an increased role, however. Rookie Jabari Walker and second-year man Trendon Watford turned in solid minutes off the bench, while Sharpe stepped up as a go-to scoring option, scoring 17 off the bench on 7-10 shooting over 29 minutes.
The Blazers clamped down late to get the win against an inferior opponent, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The Hornets, who have played the entire season without star Lamelo Ball, jumped out to a great start offensively by dominating the paint and starting the game out hot from distance. They shot 56% from the field in the first quarter, and were at their best when getting out in transition—either on missed shots or Blazer turnovers.
Portland’s sloppy passing was a significant factor in Charlotte’s big run to start the second half. When the Blazers finally cleaned things up—limiting the fast break opportunities that repeatedly burned them on the other end—the Hornets struggled to score against a set defense. Charlotte mustered just seven points over the final seven minutes of the third quarter, and only 16 total in the fourth. While Portland didn’t fare much better in the final frame, the third quarter outburst was enough to lead them to the finish line.
Also of note, the Blazers were just 14-25 from the foul line for the game, with the normally automatic duo of Lillard and Simons combining for seven misses.
The Blazers continue their road trip against CJ McCollum and the New Orleans Pelicans tomorrow night. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. PT from Smoothie King Center.