The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 105-103 on a game winning floater by Anfernee Simons on Wednesday night, capping off an exciting fourth quarter that saw the Blazers come back from a 9-point deficit entering the period.
The Nets and Blazers would battle through turnovers, offensive rebounds, and hustle plays throughout the game. The lead would change several times down the stretch, but it was Simons and the Blazers who executed when the game mattered most.
The Blazers were led in scoring by Jerami Grant’s 30 points on 14-26 shooting and Simon’s 20 points on 8-20 from the field. The Nets were led by Mikal Bridges’ 21 points and Spencer Dinwiddie’s 19, most of them coming in the fourth quarter.
Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups mixed up his lineups tonight. That proved to be effective against a Nets team who saw this Blazers squad about a week ago.
Here’s how the action went.
Portland started the game in a zone defense, but that didn’t keep Brooklyn from scoring 6 straight points in the paint to open the game. Duop Reath started again at center and kept the Blazers in the game early scoring 7 points in the first 4 minutes.
Nic Claxton and Mikal Bridges scored early and often for the Nets, with Bridges hitting a wide-open three at the 7:11 mark to give the Nets a 12-11 lead. The Blazers stayed committed to their zone defense but it seemed the Nets were ready for it and had no issues running their offense from the high post to find easy buckets. The new starting lineup from the Blazers came out strong but you could tell they haven’t played a lot together.
The easy offense for the Nets dried up, but sadly the Blazers were unable to capitalize on opportunities. Scoot Henderson, coming off his career-high 33 points in the previous game, entered at the 6:07 mark of the quarter. Nothing changed offensively for Portland. Reath scored his 9th point of the period, forcing a Nets timeout at the 3:50 mark with Portland nursing a 15-14 lead.
Coming out of that timeout, Billups brought Ibou Badji, Toumani Camara, and Matisse Thybulle off the bench. It was like the light bulb came on. Camara scored a sweet layup, Badji recorded 2 blocks, and Thybulle hit a wide open three in the corner, a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately for Portland, the Nets had answers. Trenton Watford, the former Blazer, found his sweet spot on the court and hit back-to-back threes to give the Nets a brief lead, Then Badji ended the quarter by hitting a nice 10-foot jumper to give the Blazers a 24-23 lead.
The Nets started off the second quarter right where they left off the first, with Cam Thomas hitting a three and Dennis Smith Jr getting a steal and an easy bucket to give them a 28-26 advantage. The Blazers answered with hustle, grit, and easy buckets. Camara and Thybulle got back to work and created chaos by crashing the boards and playing aggressive defense. Camara played like he was possessed, forcing a turnover in the backcourt at the 6:12 mark.
Henderson and Anfernee Simons started to heat up midway through the quarter. Henderson hit a jumper and connected on all 3 free throws after being fouled. Not wanting to be outdone, Simons connected on a logo-style three at the 6:49 mark to give Portland a 40-36 lead. Both teams then went back to struggling on the offensive end of the court until Bridges and Reath traded threes, keeping the other team from extending a lead.
Then Lonnie Walker started to heat up and connected on a three at the 3:24 mark, keeping Brooklyn within a point at 44-45 and forcing a Blazers timeout. He would score 13 points in the 2nd quarter alone.
The Nets went to a zone defense to end the quarter and it worked well. The only bright spot for Portland was Jerami Grant, who connected on back-to-back jumpers, then a shifty layup at the 6.1 second mark to bring the Blazers within 52-51 at halftime. Grant finished the first half with 14 points.
The Nets and Blazers came out of halftime firing. The only problem was, they both were firing blanks. Nic Claxton ended the drought with a made free throw at the 10:35 mark. Reath opened the scoring for the Blazers with a three pointer off a good pass from Simons. On the next possession, Grant connected on a layup to give Portland a 56-53 lead. That lasted about 8 seconds, until Cam Johnson hit a corner three to tie the game up. Reath then committed his fourth foul at the 8:58 which brought Ibou Badji back into the game.
Malcolm Brogdon got the start tonight and had a quiet first half. Someone must have had a pep talk with him at halftime because in the second half, Brogdon took charge. He hit a three at the 8:43 mark, then on the next possession Jabari Walker connected on a three, followed by another long distance shot from Brogdon, then a layup. That flood of scoring gave the Blazers a 67-60 lead and forced a Nets timeout.
Before the Blazers could celebrate their 7-point advantage, the Nets scored a quick 5 points, instantly making it a game again. The teams would trade baskets for the next few minutes. Walker started to flex his hustle skills by grabbing offensive rebounds and setting screens. He would get tangled up with Bridges at the 4:27 mark which caused Bridges to exit the game. The Nets star had 17 points and was leading his team in scoring.
At that point, Brooklyn would go on a 10-2 run, capped off by a long Spencer Dinwiddie three-pointer to force a Blazers timeout at the 2:08 mark. During the stretch, the Blazers committed 3 turnovers to give the Nets easy points, leading to a 79-72 Brooklyn lead.
The Blazers would close the quarter using the ultra-aggressive defensive unit, Camara, Walker, Thybulle, Henderson, and Brogdon. The defenders would do their part, but nobody was able to score until Brogdon closed the quarter off with a last-second layup to pull Portland within 9 points, 83-74.
Jerami Grant started the quarter off with a tough made layup. Jabari Walker took a charge, giving Portland the momentum they would need in order to get off to a good fourth. On the next possession, Grant would throw his defender into the spin cycle and connect on a spectacular jumper to bring the Blazers within 5 points at 83-78 at the 10:24 mark.
Bridges, injured earlier in the game, would come back at the 9:00 mark of the fourth quarter for the Nets. Portland and Brooklyn would go back into a scoring drought wherein neither team could hit the broad side of a barn. Bridges missed his first 3 shots after his return from injury. The entire Blazers team went cold until Grant hit a three at the 6:56 point of the quarter to give his team a 88-87 lead.
The Nets have been playing low scoring games of late, and they were ready to muck it up down the stretch. The Blazers countered this strategy with a team that can hustle with the best of them. Simons would hit a fadeaway jumper with 4:27 left in the game to give Portland a 93-91 lead. Dinwiddie would answer with a three-point play on the very next possession to give the Nets the lead back.
Both teams would trade buckets as the game wound down. The Nets would work through Dinwiddie. he delivered 9 points in the final period. Not to be outdone, Simons would connect a game-tying jumper with 54 seconds left. Bridges would miss on a layup attempt and the transition down the floor set up a wild sequence of missed shots and offensive rebounds for the Blazers. Grant would be the biggest beneficiary, scoring on a put-back with 9.7 seconds left to give Portland a 103-101 lead.
Cam Johnson responded for the Nets, converting a contested layup to tie the game at 103-103 with 5.2 seconds remaining. Portland came out of the timeout with a nice play to set up Simons in the middle of the court with the ball in his hands. Channeling his inner Dame Time, Simons took a hard dribble into the paint and connected on the game-winning jumper to give the Blazers the victory.
Stay tuned for extended analysis, coming soon!
The Blazers face the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Moda Center with a 7:00 PM start time.