Trail Blazers burn Indiana Pacers for second straight win
It was a win that took a while to manifest itself, but the snowball soon turned into an avalanche like the Portland Trail Blazers separated from the Indiana Pacers in the second half to win 116-100 on Sunday night. Jerami Grant led all scorers with 28 points. In a game in which all five Blazers starters scored in double figures and three scored more than 20 points, Portland reminded fans that when fully healthy, they are a threat in the Western Conference.
Indiana hung on bravely for one half. Myles Turner and Buddy Hield asserted their veteran presence, scoring timely buckets and playing well on both ends. Five Pacers also scored in double figures, but Indiana was outscored from distance by 12 percent. That was enough to sink the Pacers into a hole they couldn’t climb out of, though they did give a scare for a moment early in the fourth before pulling away.
Be sure to grab ours instant summary by Dave Deckardwhich broke down the most critical moments of tonight’s game very well.
Now, here are eight takeaways from the win.
Nice job on the inside, gentlemen
Both the Blazers and Pacers had an early 3, courtesy of Hield and Lillard. But from the beginning, it was the inside strategy that prevailed. Both teams were masterful with misdirections, smokescreens and cuts. Jumping to the basket worked as an easy ticket to point-blank points for Indiana’s Jaylon Smith, while Jusuf Nurkic also went 5 feet on his way to 19 points on 7-12 shooting. Backdoor cuts and movement along the baseline opened up opportunities for both teams and left the long ball available for Lillard and Hield to duel.
With Lillard back in the lineup, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle didn’t opt to trap the star guard on the high screen and roll, nor did he deploy full-court pressure on the ball-handler who was arriving at the track. Dame found himself in the corners on several occasions where he was shadowed on the backline. Otherwise, it didn’t feel awkward, a situation Carlisle might want to return to when watching film. Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups didn’t have any special tricks up his sleeve on defense either. He opted to make a big show of Andrew Nembhard for his own reasons, and that led to eight assists from the backup point guard, with seven of those coming in the first half. Nembhard made the Blazers pay for giving him too much attention, especially when he was just 1-4 from distance and 2-5 from the field.
Hands, hands, hands!
Oh, the good old hands sing. Everyone who has played basketball at any level has heard it from a coach while doing their defensive slides. The Blazers’ guards went back to basics and dished out eight steals in the first half by flashing their hands and reading the passing lanes like a thriller. They were especially adept at jumping to intercept passes in the air. It was just deflection after deflection, with 14 fast break points as a result.
No response for Myles Turner
As usual, a lackluster Blazers line in the 3-point contest led to Myles Turner comfortably draining two shots from the outside. Nurkic was in a different zip code whenever Turner was on the outside looking in, and the same can be said for Drew Eubanks as well. Turner had just as much fun inside, where he was 5-7. Whether he was catching it on the block or off a bullet pass with no defender in sight, Turner was the main reason Indiana was within five points at the half.
The third quarter is ours
A 15-4 run with 3:06 to go in the third sent a message to an Indiana team without its best player Tyrese Haliburton: the Blazers won’t drop a game we’ll regret losing down the line. Grant has been rock solid all season and led the race with seven points of his own. Rip City took shape as the quarter wore on and looked more like the team we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the first 15 games. The ball moved well and the wealth was shared.
There is this area
You can read it in whatever tone of voice or cadence you like. They all fit the bill. Once Coach Billups removed his favorite cheat card from his deck, the tide turned. The Blazers didn’t go there every possession, but they spread it around in their game and rocked Portland to a successful fourth where the defense led the offense.
16 in a minute?
Do they even do this brutal conditioning drill at NBA practices? Billups could start using him after this Blazers miscue with eight minutes left tonight. Down 100-87, Buddy Hield got his own rebound on a missed free throw during Indiana’s fourth-quarter mini-rally. The play led to two more free throws for Hield to cut Portland’s biggest lead of 22 to 11. There are certain cardinal sins he doesn’t commit in basketball: not stopping the ball in transition, missing an open layup and allowing a The rebound and points of a missed free throw is at this level. Luckily, he dropped a Lillard logo bomb that kept Indiana at bay.
Battle of underwhelming rookies
Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe have been two of the best rookies all year. Unfortunately, fans didn’t get to see these two gifted rookies play at their level. Mathurin struggled early and Sharpe played just 17 minutes, leaving a small mark that was further dampened by his unselfishness. He attempted just three shot attempts all night.
This was a crucial win for a Blazers team that overcame a 2-5 slump without Lillard in the lineup. Now that they’ve won their second straight game and Lillard is back, they’ll have to grind their way through an upcoming nine-game Western Conference slate, starting at home against the Denver Nuggets — a team they’ve already beaten this season — Thursday night at 7 p.m. PT. In the meantime, they will enjoy a three-day layoff.
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