After a thrilling, hard-fought battle between teams in radically different circumstances, the Portland Trail Blazers fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 108-102 on Sunday afternoon. Portland led by 26 at one point, but a second half collapse from the Blazers allowed the Bucks to come away with a six point win.
The Blazers were led in scoring by the 22 points of Jerami Grant. They maintained a balanced scoring attack. Malcolm Brogdon recorded 18 points and Shaedon Sharpe have 17. Deandre Ayton led the team in rebounding with 13. Matisse Thybulle and Grant were active on the defensive end, recording four steals each.
The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 33 points and the 31 points of Damian Lillard. Antetokounmpo also recorded 16 rebounds.
The Blazers were able to force the Bucks to struggle out of the gate. Damian Lillard was given the green light to run the offense against his former team. He was held to just 1-5 shooting in the early part of the game.
After holding a small lead, the Blazers allowed two straight threes, the first from Lillard and the second from Malik Beasley. That gave the Bucks a 16-11 lead. A steal from Matisse Thybulle led to a fast break layup for Scoot Henderson that helped him get in the scoring column early. Two straight baskets from Shaedon Sharpe, including a breakaway dunk, capped off a 9-2 run that put the Blazers back in front 20-18.
Matched up against Lillard, Henderson hit a step-back three-pointer over Portland’s former franchise player to put the Blazers up five points late in the first quarter. After the two teams traded baskets in the final minute, the Blazers held a 31-26 lead at the horn.
Henderson continued his efficient scoring early in the second quarter. He hit a pair of three-pointers as the Blazers expanded their lead to 14 with about eight minutes left in the half. The Bucks continued to struggle scoring the ball. A 13-4 run to open the quarter in favor of Portland forced a timeout from Milwaukee to try and stop the bleeding.
The Bucks finally began to hit shots, both inside the paint and on the arc. But the Blazers had an answer for everything that Milwaukee threw at them. They kept the lead consistent throughout the offensive push from the Bucks.
Portland continued to exploit a weak-looking opposing defense. A 9-0 run for the Blazers gave them a lead of 18. After a basket from the Bucks to end the first half, the Blazers took a 68-52 advantage into halftime.
The story of the first half was the shooting of Portland. The Blazers went 10-17 from deep, posting their season high for three-point makes in a half. Henderson, who played just nine minutes, had his best half of basketball so far in his time in the NBA. He scored 11 points on 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from three.
If there was any thought that Portland would come out of the halftime break and let Milwaukee back into the game easily, the Blazers put that to rest quickly. They shot out of the break on a 10-3 run to push their lead past 20 points. A defense that has struggled at many points this season looked methodical, stopping the Bucks from scoring almost every time down the floor.
To nobody’s surprise, Giannis Antetokounmpo proved to be a problem for the Blazers. Antetokounmpo had 21 points halfway through the third quarter. His ability to get to the free throw line proved to be one of the few avenues for Milwaukee to get points.
At that point the Bucks stormed back into the game, fueled by great play from Lillard and a roaring crowd. A 14-0 run in favor of Milwaukee brought them back from a 25-point deficit to just 11. Two straight layups from Sharpe and Henderson helped the Blazers push the lead back to 15 at 87-72. The layup from Henderson gave him 13 points for the game, setting a new career high.
Both teams fell cold in the final few minutes of the quarter, as the score remained almost the same. Portland led 88-75 heading into the final quarter.
Milwaukee kept knocking at the door, waiting for any opening to get back into the game. Strong defense, fueled by Thybulle, helped the Blazers keep the Bucks at arm’s length. Thybulle’s four steals in the game helped shift momentum, leading straight to easy baskets for Portland.
Two Bobby Portis three-pointers capped off an 11-1 run for Milwaukee that brought the score to 95-92. In a sight that is all too familiar for Blazer fans, Lillard made a layup to mark the beginning of Dame Time...this time for the Bucks.
As Milwaukee surged, the Portland offense ran ice cold. A Lillard three-pointer gave him 25 points for the game, tying the scoreboard at 97 with just under three minutes left in the game.
Then Beasley hit a three-pointer to give Milwaukee the lead 102-99, but Jerami Grant three of his own knotted the game again.
In a shocking development, the refs called a sixth foul on Antetokounmpo on a Malcolm Brogdon drive with 14 seconds remaining and Portland down 104-102. Brogdon would have had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line, but the call was overturned following a Coach’s Challenge. That led to a jump ball. Lillard recovered the tip and made two free throws to give the Bucks a 106-102 lead. A missed three-pointer from Sharpe killed Portland’s hopes of being able to squeeze out the win.
After the red hot first half for the Blazers, they shot just 12-42 in the second as Milwaukee completed the comeback.
Stay tuned for extended analysis coming soon.
The Blazers are back in action against the Indiana Pacers on Monday at 4:00 p.m.