Simons Nearly Flawless From Three To Help Blazers End Losing Streak In Indy
Sometimes, when a team is really struggling, as the Trail Blazers have the last few weeks, it takes an uncommon performance to snap out of it. Tuesday night, Anfernee Simons did just that.
The 6-3 guard in his third season out of IMG Academy made his first nine three-point attempts to spark a 133-112 blowout of the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It felt good, we needed one like this,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We’ve had a tough stretch, obviously, and it was good to see some good shooting. I thought our defense picked up late in the second quarter and really in the third quarter. It was a very positive night for us.”
The Trail Blazers are now 33-28 overall and 17-12 on the road this season. The win breaks a five-game losing streak, Portland’s longest of the season, and and moves then to within a half game of the Mavericks for sixth in the West (Dallas plays Golden State later Tuesday night).
Portland entered the first of a six-game road trip having lost every game in a four-game homestand by just a combined total of 11 points. So while the Pacers might have been missing Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb, Malcolm Brogdan and Caris LeVert had led Indiana to three-straight wins, which seemed to indicate that the Trail Blazers would have a much more difficult task on their hands than the final score would eventually indicate.
And with the Pacers shooting 57 percent in the first quarter to take a 35-34 lead into the second, fans at home might have been wondering what it would take to get the Trail Blazers back on the right path.
Tuesday night, that catalyst was Simons’ shooting.
"It feels good. All the hard work you put in … I’m just glad to see it come to fruition." @Anferneesimons catches up with @BrookeOlzendam in tonight's @biofreeze Top Performance Review. pic.twitter.com/PSmiYGwkFr
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 28, 2021
The Trail Blazers led by two points with just under five minutes to play in the first half, and if the Pacers had managed to keep it that way, perhaps the second half plays out differently. But instead, Portland went on a 16-2 run, with Simons contributing nine points, all on three-pointers to take a 71-55 advantage with 1:43 to play in the second quarter.
Portland would go on to outscore Indiana by 12 in the quarter to take a 73-62 lead into the half.
The Trail Blazers continued to score almost at will in the third quarter. And with a significant uptick in their defensive intensity that started in the second quarter, they held the Pacers to just 16 points on 27 percent shooting in the third.
“I thought the last four minutes of the second quarter we picked it up (defensively) as a group,” said Stotts. “But certainly Dame, I thought, forced the issue defensively and kind of set the tone. That carried over into the third quarter.”
Between Portland already leading by a significant margin to start the third and their defensive stiffening up, all they would need to do to put the game away before the fourth was to continue to ride Simons’ hot streak. A 13-0 run, with six of those points coming off Simons’ threes, with 2:36 to play gave the Trail Blazers a 29-point lead, which would grow to 35 by the end of the quarter.
“I think after that first three I made in the second half, I knew it was going to be a good night for me,” said Simons. “I was able to get a wide open one, line it up, knock it right in. After that, I felt like it didn’t matter who was contesting and how close they were, if I was able to get it off, I knew it was going to go in. So it was a good night for me.”
With the game well in hand, the Trail Blazers were able to play the end of their bench for almost the entirely of the fourth, a rarity this season and an especially well timed rest opportunity with a game versus the Grizzlies on the horizon Wednesday night.
Right way to start a road trip.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 28, 2021
“We’ve had a rough stretch coming into this game,” said Stotts. “It was a game that we definitely needed and to win it in this fashion, to be able to rest our guys, our high minute guys, that was a positive. I think it’s reassuring to have a good offensive game, to win some with defense, to be able to rest our starters going into a back-to-back. I think it was all very important.”
Simons finished with 27 points on 9-of-10 shooting from three, with his lone miss coming on his last attempt, four assists, four rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes.
“I was just trying to keep it going,” said Simons. “In the second half I got me a wide open one at the beginning and then after that, I just felt good. Felt like I couldn’t miss at all.”
Damian Lillard had his best offensive performance since returning from a right hamstring injury, going 6-of-14 from the field, 4-of-8 from three and 7-of-7 from the line for 23 points to go with six assists, four rebounds and a steal in 31 minutes.
Jusuf Nurkic (11 points, 10 rebounds), Robert Covington (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Enes Kanter (12 points, 14 rebounds) all contributed double-doubles. CJ McCollum added 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 24 minutes and Carmelo Anthony missed just one attempt to finish with 13 points in 16 minutes off the bench.
Brogdan and Oshae Brissett each finished with 18 points. LeVert added 16 points in 24 minutes.
Now the Blazers head to Memphis to face the Grizzlies in not only the second game of a back-to-back, but the third game versus the Tennessee-based club in the last six days.
“We’ve played well recently and we’ve come up short,” said Stotts. “We’ve got a tough game tomorrow against Memphis, obviously we played two close games against them, we have a little payback and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.