Trail Blazers Overcome Free Throws With Threes Versus Spurs

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Considering the difference in fouls calls and free throws between the Trail Blazers and Spurs Thursday night, there were likely more than a few fans in attendance wondering if the home team was getting a fair shake.

In the end, the Trail Blazers were able to overcome the differential by taking and making their own shots rather than being gifted free throws by the referees.

Portland made nine of their 10 three-point attempts in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Spurs for a 125-117 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,653 Thursday night at the Moda Center.

The Trail Blazers are now 24-28 overall and 14-11 at home this season. Portland has now won six of their last eight and five of their last six. More importantly, the win gives the Trail Blazers a 2-1 season series victory versus the Spurs, a team tracking just behind Portland in the Western Conference standings.

While the Trail Blazers often looked like the better team Thursday night -- they shot better than 50 percent from the field, won the rebounding battle and scored significantly more points in the paint for the first three quarters -- they could not overcome a Spurs team that went to the free throw line with alarming frequency. On the other side, the Blazers shot just one free throw in the first quarter and none in the second.

By the time three quarters had been played, the Blazers had been called for 14 fouls to eight for the Spurs. And to make matters much, much worse, San Antonio shot 19 free throws to just 10 for the Trail Blazers through three quarters. The Trail Blazers also turned the ball over 12 times for 10 Spurs points, resulting in the Spurs leading by as many as 10 Thursday night before entering the fourth quarter with an 92-86 advantage.

San Antonio's free throw offense continued to work in the fourth, with Derrick White getting more free throws attempts (six) in the quarter than any Trail Blazer got in the entire game.

But when it became apparent that they'd never be able to setting the score thanks to the referees, the Trail Blazers looked to their long-range shooting to win the game.

Down 94-86, the Blazers went on an 18-6 run, with most of the damage coming from three-pointers from Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum and Gary Trent Jr., to take a 104-100 lead with just over eight minutes to play in regulation.

It was especially the shooting of Trent Jr. that allowed Portland to secure the win. The second-year guard out Duke went 4-of-4 from three for 12 fourth-quarter points while finishing with 18 for the game.

"Whenever you get out there and make plays, knock down shots, you get in a good groove and feel good about yourself and continue to keep pushing," said Trent Jr. who has seen an uptick in minutes lately due to consistent play. "Getting game reps, you can practice all you want and do all the conditioning in the world, but you can’t simulate a real game. Knowing angles, knowing players tendencies, knowing what they can do helps me out there."

Behind Trent Jr., Portland shot 64 percent from there field to outscore San Antonio by 14 in the fourth quarter to come away with the eight-point win versus a team right behind the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference playoff race.

"I think we’re past the point of, ‘Oh it’s just another game’ and kind of shooing it off," said Damian Lillard. "Every game is important but games like this are even more important because they’re one of the teams that we’re fighting for that spot with. It was a tie breaker game. We’re not playing them no more after this. And it also just gives us some separation from them."

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard went 9-of-20 from the field, 3-of-9 from three and 5-of-5 from the free throw line for 26 points to go with 10 assists for his 15th double-double of the season.

Hassan Whiteside continued his strong play on both ends, going 8-of-10 from the field for 17 points to go with 23 rebounds and four blocks in 36 minutes.

Carmelo Anthony scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half while also grabbing eight rebounds. CJ McCollum, despite battling foul trouble for most of the night, added 19 points, six assists and three rebounds in 30 minutes.

Gary Trent Jr. finished with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting while matching his season high with four assists. Anfernee Simons rounded out Portland's double-digit scorers with 10 points in 15 minutes.

Trey Lyles led the Spurs with 23 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double. Lamarcus Aldridge finished with 20 points and DeMar DeRozan had 21 on 6-of-16 shooting.

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers won their fourth straight game at Moda Center, matching their longest winning streak at home this season (four, 12/10/19 – 12/21/19).

• Portland shot 18-of-37 from the three-point line (48.6%) while the Spurs shot 10-of-28(35.7%). The Trail Blazers made nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter on 10 attempts.

• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Spurs, 50-39.

• Portland scored 120-plus points for the seventh time in its last eight games. The TrailBlazers are now 14-4 when they score at least 120 points.

• The Trail Blazers outscored the Spurs in the paint, 48-44.

• San Antonio made 25 free throws (of 28, 89.3%) while the Trail Blazers made nine free throws (of 12, 75.0%).

QUOTABLE

"He’s the best shot blocker I’ve ever been around. I feel like he’s going to block everything." -- Damian Lillard on Hassan Whiteside

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

After hosting the Spurs Thursday night, the Trail Blazers head to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz in the second game of a back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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