Blazers Pull Away In Brooklyn For Another Big Road Win

by Casey Holdahl
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Considering how odd the last year has been, it makes some sense that the Trail Blazers, historically at their best playing at home, have become road warriors.

After enduring a five-game losing streak, a stretch that saw them lose every game in a four-game homestand, the Trail Blazers have started a six-game road trip with three-straight blowout victories, the latest of which was a 128-109 victory versus the Brooklyn Nets in front of a crowd of 1,773 Friday night at Barclays Center.

“It’s reassuring,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “The five-game losing streak, tough losses, more than anything else, to bounce back and get some quality wins. Obviously the Memphis win was very important, Brooklyn is a good team even without Durant on the floor. I like what we’re doing and we’ve still got three more on the trip. But obviously a good start to the trip.”

The Trail Blazers are now 35-28 overall and 19-12 on the road this season. With the win, Portland is now a half game behind Dallas for sixth in the West and two and a half games up in Memphis for eighth with nine games to play in the regular season.

Even though the Nets were without Durant and James Harden, not to mention a few others, and were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, they looked to be the better team in the first quarter. But thanks to Jusuf Nurkic keeping Portland afloat until their open shots started falling -- he scored 11 of Portland’s 23 points in the first quarter -- the road team managed to go into the second quarter trailing by only two.

But Portland’s struggles shooting didn’t last past the first quarter. With Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony leading the way, Portland shot 59 percent from the field and 4-of-8 from three to take a two-point lead into the intermission.

And after a nip-and-tuck first half, Portland, and specifically Damian Lillard, blew the game open in the third quarter. Portland led by just two points after a Kyrie Irving pullup jumper with 5:11 to play in the third, but went on a 18-3 run, with Lillard scoring 11 of those points to take a 94-79 lead with just over a minute to play in the quarter.

“It was good to see (Lillard) shooting the ball that well,” said Stotts. “I’m surprised that he doesn’t shoot a free throw, that surprises me. But to have some deep shots go in for him, he had a good rhythm. It’s an understatement: we’re a much better team, we’re a really good team, when he’s playing at that level.”

With Lillard, Nurkic, Norman Powell and Carmelo Anthony all dialed in on offense, all that was left was to hold the Nets at bay defensively in the fourth. They did just that, holding Brooklyn to 38 percent shooting and building a 22-point lead before the Nets waived the white flag with just over three minutes to play.

“Our team was at that point where we’re either gonna fall apart or we gonna dig out, come together and get ourselves right,” said Lillard. “I think we’re showing some signs of going in the right direction and that starts with the defensive end for us.”

Lillard had one of his best offensive performances in the last month, going 12-of-22 from the field and 8-of-13 from three to lead all scorers with 32 points while also contributing nine assists, seven rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes.

Nurkic continued his strong play as of late, going 9-of-12 for 23 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds for the double-double in 26 minutes. Powell finished with 19 points in 34 minutes and CJ McCollum added 10 points.

Anthony came off the bench to score 15 points in 21 minutes and Anfernee Simons rounded out Portland’s double-digit scorers.

Kyrie Irving led the Nets with 28 points. Jeff Green added 16 and Portland native Mike James went 6-of-15 for 15 points.

The Trail Blazers now start the second half of the trip in Boston versus the Celtics in the first game of a road back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for Sunday at 4:30 p.m.


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