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Big Men Help Blazers Overcome Pesky Hornets

It’s not often that Portland exploits a size advantage.

Charlotte Hornets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers overcame an upset attempt by the Charlotte Hornets in a 124-113 win on Monday night. The Blazers rode to victory on the back of a strong second half. They were led by Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic who finished with 32 and 28 points respectively.

The Hornets played a great first half, but couldn’t fend off the Blazers late in this game. Their leading scorer in the contest was Lamelo Ball, who had 27 points.

For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the game, check out our instant recap here. Once you’ve finished with that, here are some observations about tonight’s game.

Jusuf Nurkic

It would be a disservice to Nurkic to mention anything else before highlighting his dominant performance of 28 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals. Oh yeah, and a casual career-high five three pointers. The Bosnian Beast was on a mission, and he would not be stopped. He did everything on the court, and that was reflected in his +19 plus-minus mark. That doesn’t even count the screens he set that allowed the Blazers to hit 14 threes and get 52 points in the paint. The big man showed just how important he is to this team. The Blazers began to turn around the game just as Nurkic started turning up the intensity, and neither the team nor Nurkic looked back after that point.

Limiting the Hornets

The Hornets made just 41 of their 103 shot attempts. That 40% from the field was well below the Blazers’ 50%. The difference between these two teams boiled down to making shots. The Blazers shot better from the field, from three, and from the free throw line on their way to a double-digit win. They did allow 18 offensive rebounds, which is high, but that was more due to the quantity of Hornets shots The Blazers outrebounded them in general. Portland never got complacent on defense and fought to stop the Hornets from getting a second chance to score. The deficit in the first half was due to a lot of things, especially fast break opportunities from the Hornets. But in the second half, the Blazers limited those too. All in all the Blazers adjusted to the Hornets at every turn and were able to go on runs at the right times to take a win in this contest.

Overcoming Early Woes

A sloppy first half looks better on paper thanks in large part to a 10-2 run to end the half in favor of the Blazers. Before that run the Blazers were down 65-51 and looked dead in the water. The Blazers had ten turnovers in the first half, with eight coming in the first quarter alone. They looked like a team that was going to let three straight losses haunt them in a winnable game. However, they went down swinging to end the first half. That attitude carried over to the third quarter, where the Blazers put up 40 points and won the quarter by 12. This game was a 20-point victory disguised as an 11-point win because of how long it took the Blazers to get going. But once they did, they took care of business against a lesser opponent like they were expected to.

Keeping the Ball Moving

Losing Justise Winslow in their last game hurt a Blazers offense that lacks a secondary playmaker at times. The offense seemed poised to devolve into iso-heavy shot chucking without a real point guard off the bench. The Blazers overcame those worries with 28 assists in the win. Lillard finished with nine, Nurkic had six, and Grant had five of his own. The Blazers kept the ball popping around the court and utilized movement to get good open shots. The most obvious beneficiary of that movement was Nurkic. His threes were a direct result his passing prowess, as well as the ball movement in general. He was able to catch a pass, then fake a pass, ending up wide open time and again. The Blazers have able passers, and if they keep showing that they are willing passers as well, they can look forward to a lot more games like this.

Bench Play

The bench of the Blazers was up and down throughout the game. They had just 18 points, but they did that on 8-14 from the field. Keon Johnson made big shots early in the game and proved to be a spark off the bench. Eight quick points in his first shift kept the Blazers afloat amid a bleak start. But still, the Blazers were led by their starters, and three of the four players off the bench ended with a negative plus/minus despite the double-digit win. The bench didn’t need to be great this game, but they can’t play like this every night and expect the same results from the starters.


All three of the starting front court of Josh Hart, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic notched double doubles with rebounds in this game. The three combined for 38 rebounds, almost singlehandedly out rebounding the Hornets. Control of the glass helped turn the tide for the Blazers. They were able to establish a defensive presence with the help of those three.

The three of them were also able to push around the Hornets in the paint and dominated with their presence. The Nurkic-Grant-Hart trio had six offensive rebounds between them. When all three of those guys are as dominant on the glass as they were tonight, it’s a tall task for any team to get momentum. That proved to be the case for the Hornets.

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Box Score

The Blazers have another long break before taking on the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco on Friday, December 30th at 7:00 PM.