While Portland has been one of the best shooting teams in the NBA from deep this season, they weren’t tonight, shooting only 27.3 percent from three. While Indiana only shot [ercent from deep themselves, the majority of the Pacers makes came in the fourth quarter while the Blazers were missing everything from everywhere. This was yet another game that was set up for the Blazers to win but poor execution down the stretch was again their undoing.
Here’s how it went down...
The Blazers started on fire from the first possession. Nurkic collected at the high post and delivered a dime for Jerami Grant under the hoop that resulted in an and-1. Indiana was content to chuck from deep while the Blazers penetrated, and the score was suddenly 7-0, forcing a quick timeout.
The Blazers boosted the lead to 10 with a Nurkic and-1, but then Indiana realized they could penetrate, while at the same time the turnover bug came back to bite Portland, leading to 10 straight points for the Pacers to tie the game at 10. The Blazers took the turn of events as a bit of a wakeup call and mostly stopped giving the ball away cheaply for a few minutes, getting the lead back up to six. However, Indiana turned up the intensity themselves and fought back to within two as the Blazers called timeout.
A Brissett three gave Indiana their first lead of the game, but four quick points including a monster Jabari Walker dunk got the Blazers back in front. Rick Carlisle was incensed and called a Popovichian timeout to yell at the refs, his team and anyone else who happened to be nearby.
Indiana quickly got the lead back with strong penetration that the Blazers were unable to contain, a recurring problem so far in this one. The story of the game at this point was that when the Pacers settled for outside shooting, the Blazers had the upper hand. When the Pacers attacked the hoop they got most of what they wanted. Fortunately the Pacers didn’t really seem to grasp that fact, making it a bit easier than it might have been on the Blazers’ defense, and Portland was able to get their noses in front again, leading by three at 29-26 at the end of one.
The second quarter started with the Pacers once again penetrating, and poof went Portland’s lead. Neither team could hit a three to save their lives, and the game started to get more physical. With both teams shooting under 20 percent from deep, defenses started to get more compact and bodies started flying. Indiana was more the successful however and helped themselves to a 37-34 lead as Portland called a timeout with 7:17 to go in the second.
The Blazers came out of the timeout and committed two turnovers in 22 seconds, coughing up four points in the process. Indiana for their part set out to deny Lillard the ball completely, confusing Portland. Throw in another turnover leading to a rare Pacers made three and suddenly the Blazers found themselves down 10 at 45-35. Portland looked confused and a few steps slow with 5:51 to go in the half, forcing Chauncey to call timeout to try to regroup.
The Blazers stopped the bleeding by hitting a few threes. Now Indiana’s defense started to loosen some and passing lanes opened up that weren’t there five minutes ago, giving the Blazers some easy looks that they capitalized on. The Blazers cut the lead to three with a bit over a minute to go in the quarter. Some offensive rebounding and a three from Hart just before the buzzer meant that Portland ended the half on a happy note and somehow ended the half up by one. Anfernee Simons and Myles Turner shared scoring honors for the half at 15, while Jusuf Nurkic and Bennedict Mathurin were the only other players in double figures at 10 and 11 respectively. The biggest problem for Indiana was that they shot 10 percent from deep while for the Blazers it was their 11 turnovers.
Indiana finally started to find some success from three, while the Blazers fought back with varied scoring, with everyone on the court in black taking a turn to put a few points on the board. This resulted in a number of lead changes and neither team making any sort of a run. 68-67 for the Blazers into the first timeout of the quarter.
Disaster out of the timeout for Portland. The Blazers couldn’t hit anything and the Pacers turned up the energy. launching an 11 point run and forcing a Portland timeout. In less than three and a half minutes the Blazers went from up three to down eight. 78-70 for the Pacers with 3:25 to go.
A Jabari Walker dunk on a nice feed from Drew Eubanks finally stopped the bleeding. The Blazers were able to chip away at the lead off of aggressive play from Lillard and others on the offensive end and less porous defense on the other end. Some Pacers misses didn’t hurt either. Shaedon Sharpe took a charge on Indiana’s last possession of the quarter, and with 7.5 seconds left Portland quickly inbounded, got the ball after a bit of confusion to Josh Hart who put his head down and rumbled with no remorse directly at the hoop for thunderous dunk, and again somehow the Blazers got their noses ahead just before the buzzers to lead by a score of 82-81.
Both teams dialed the energy up to 11 to start the fourth. Every time the Blazers opened up a small lead, Indiana found a way to strike back, usually with more penetration. Portland wasn’t letting Indian get a lead, but the score was frequently tied and Portland could only manage to occasionally get in front by a few points. Drew Eubanks said enough of the penetration that the Pacers had been so successful with and took a charge, giving the Blazers the ball with a two point lead at 95-93 and 6:55 to go as the Pacers called timeout.
The Blazers got the lead up to four but again Indiana fought back with penetration. The Blazers weren’t giving up layups at this point, but Indiana was getting to free throw line with some regularity. With Portland suddenly going cold, the Pacers finally took their first lead of the quarter at 99-97 with 4:34 to go as Coach Billups called timeout.
Frantic defense and futile shooting from both teams let nearly 90 seconds expire without any change of score. Portland finally broke the drought after Dame was fouled scrambling for an offensive board and tied the score at 99. The Pacers answered back with a successful Nesmith drive, a steal leading to a Hield layup and a Haliburton three after a Blazers miss and suddenly Portland was down by seven. Yet another miss for the Blazers and this one was done. The Blazers missed their last 13 shots from the field to turn a close game into a 108-99 loss.
Joe Moore will have analysis of the game shortly!
The Blazers head north of the border to take on the Raptors Sunday.