Shots Fall After Slow Start In Win Versus Pacers

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers, a team that relies on long-range shooting, couldn’t buy a three-pointer for the first 23 minutes of Monday night’s game versus the Indiana Pacers.

Luckily for the home team, the percentages eventually evened out.

After missing their first 10 attempts from behind the three-point line, the Trail Blazers went 13-of-22 thereafter from deep on the way to defeating the Pacers 106-98 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Monday night at the Moda Center.

“I thought it was an interesting game," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We got off to a slow start offensively, kind of searching for things. The first half I was surprised we had 55 in the first half. We just kind of manufactured them – we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. I thought it was gritty."

The Trail Blazers are now 43-27 overall, 26-9 at home and have swept the season series versus the Pacers 2-0. With the win, the Trail Blazers remain in fourth in the Western Conference and are 1.0 games behind the Rockets for third and are 4.5 games behind the Warriors and Nuggets for first.

Playing in their first game this season without CJ McCollum, who is sidelined for at least the next week with a strained muscle in his left knee, and fresh off a seven-day, three-game road trip, the Trail Blazers looked a bit out of sorts against a Pacers team playing the second game of a four-game Western Conference road trip.

And after the Pacers went on an early 16-2 run to take a 21-12 lead with five minutes to play in the first quarter, it seemed as though the old adage that the hardest game of a road trip is the first game back at home might prove itself correct once again. But after that rough start and thanks to a 10-2 run to close the quarter, Portland Indiana’s lead to 31-28 going into the second.

"We was taking the ball out each time, they were scoring," said Damian Lillard. "Our coverages, we were kind of making a lot of mistakes and they were just kind of manipulating coverages and we weren’t making the right reads. We made our adjustments on that end, started to get some stops and get out in transition."

After things remained close despite Portland missing everything from deep for the first 11 minutes of the second, Damian Lillard and Rodney Hood combined to hit three three-pointers in a little over a minute late in the quarter to take a 55-48 advantage into the half.

Portland was as hot in the third quarter as they were cold in the first half from three, going 8-of-13 from three in the first 12 minutes after the intermission to blow the game open. Three consecutive triples from Lillard and Moe Harkless gave the Trail Blazers a 67-57 lead with 8:10 to play in the third, and that advantage would increase to 16 by the end of the quarter.

“I think we were getting quality looks, we were missing some good looks," said Lillard. "That was the encouraging part of it, when it’s going that way, you know they’re going to fall eventually. You’re not just going to keep getting those kind of looks and keep missing them. That’s what happened, they just started to fall.”

But in true boom-or-bust fashion, Portland went ice cold after taking a 21-point lead, their largest of the night, early in the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers would ultimately go the last 5:31 of regulation without a field goal, though Lillard and Al-Farouq Aminu made their free throws after the Pacers cut the lead to five with under 30 seconds to play to secure the eight-point victory.

"The three ball started going in the second half, that was good to see," said Stotts. "I was glad for (Aminu) – he had a tough first half, came back with a really good third quarter and that gave us a great boost. And obviously, Dame is special."

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard had a game-high 30 points to go with a season-high 15 assists, two rebounds, three steals and one block. It was his ninth double-double of the season and his 23rd game of 30-plus points. He became just the second player in franchise history to record at least 30 points and 15 assists in a game, joining Clyde Drexler (3/14/86 at Dallas). 

Jusuf Nurkic recorded his fourth consecutive double-double, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and two assists before fouling out in 31 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu logged16 points, three rebounds and one steal. His four three-pointers matched his season high (three times). All 16 of his points came in the second half.

Seth Curry finished with 11 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and one block. Portland is 15-0 when Cury scores in double figures. Maurice Harkless recorded 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. It was the fifth time this season that Harkless had at least two steals and two blocks.

Rodney Hood scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting (1-4 3-PT) to go with one rebound, two assists, two steals and one block. It was his third straight game scoring in double figures.

The Pacers were led bu Myles Turner, who scored 18 points in the first half before finishing with a double-double of 28 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes.

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NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers swept the season series with Indiana for the second straight season and the fourth time in the last five seasons.

• The Trail Blazers won their 10th straight home game against the Pacers.

• Portland’s bench outscored the Indiana reserves, 32-30.

• Portland shot 40.6% from the three-point line for the game. The Trail Blazers missed their first 10 three-point attempts before connecting on 13 of their last 22 attempts (59.1%)

• Portland outscored Indiana in the paint, 40-36.

• The Trail Blazers recorded nine steals and eight blocks while the Pacers notched 12 steals and three blocks.

QUOTABLE

"Mentally, I'm good. Physically, got a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Got some good rehab in yesterday and today, try to build on that each day." -- CJ McCollum on missing at least the next week with a muscle strain in his left knee

NEXT UP

With the first game of a four-game homestand down, the Trail Blazers now have a day off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks, their only Western Conference opponent in their next three games, Wednesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. 

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