To be the best, you have to go out and beat the best. The Portland Trail Blazers (35-15) continue their east-coast swing with a battle of the league’s top offense and defense against the Indiana Pacers (39-10), another game for the Blazers that was shown nationally on ESPN. The Blazers got away with a bad shooting night and still walked away with a win in New York on Wednesday and they came into Baker’s Life Fieldhouse arena on Friday for the sweep of the NBA’s best.
Back in December the Blazers walked away in a slugfest, this game, and series, has lived up to its expectations. Portland fought tooth and nail throughout, building at one moment to a 12-point advantage thanks to stellar defense, hot shooting from Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge and had the momentum in their favor. The Pacers showed why they are considered the title favorites, even while star Paul George struggled; David West and George Hill had answers late down the stretch and a Hill three-pointer forced overtime. The Pacers capitalized on multiple key turnovers in overtime doomed the Blazers as they lose 118-113 in an epic basketball match.
Everything was going Portland’s way in the first half, their interior defensive was tight, Nicolas Batum kept George away from the ball and the combo punch of Aldridge and Lillard ballooned a 12-point lead, all while the Blazers were shooting just under 40% and a combined zero points from both Wesley Matthews and Batum. Mo Williams was not with the team due to serious family matters, which gave Earl Watson minutes as the back-up point. He and the bench would struggle with foul trouble and sending the Pacers to the foul line. One bad possession for Portland ended with four oppritunities to bank in a three and the Blazers came away empty. Indiana would find their footing thanks to Hill and West, and the Blazers took a 50-45 lead the break.
The second half was a slippery slope; Aldridge strangely picked up three fouls and was forced to sit. The Pacers took complete advantage and suffocated the second unit. Near the end of the third, the Blazers got into a quick groove, Lillard would find Robin Lopez for successful pick and rolls, CJ McCollum connects at the elbow for a three and keep the Pacers at bay. Lillard hits a four-point play to maintain a 77-71 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Indiana went on a run midway through at the right time as the Blazers shot felt cold and fouls were called against them and trading one-two point leads. The final three minutes were an absolute showcase of two great teams going at it: trading buckets after hard, difficult bucket and no lead was safe. Matthews woke up at the right time and connected on several three-pointers but George responded. On the next possession with Portland up one, the Pacers turned it over as Danny Granger took his heel over the sideline. With 22 seconds left, Batum is sent to the foul line to collect his first points of the game, and a win was in reach after Hill missed a corner-three. But Lopez was boxed-out at the wrong time and the defensive-rebound fell back to Indiana and Hill had another shot from distance and makes it with eight seconds left. Lillard was swarmed with two bigger bodies and couldn’t get the winning shot to Aldridge, who instead gave it to Batum for a tough fading jumper and bricked left forcing overtime. Portland was 3-0 while Indiana was 2-0. Someone had to lose.
Batum runs down the sideline for a baseline layup just seconds into overtime. It was a nightmare from there on out. Aldridge had several turnovers and the Pacers jumped on the chance. Lillard tried to cling to something, hitting two deep three-pointers but it was too late as George grabs another offensive rebound and dunks, putting the game away for good.
- Damian Lillard scored a team-high 38 points, 11 assists and 4-7 from downtown in 45 minutes on 15-26 makes.
- LaMarcus Aldridge had an awful game in New York but responded nicely like the All-Star he is with 22 points, nine rebounds, one block but on 9-24 makes that started the slide in the second half.
- Robin Lopez was the better center in the first half en route to 17 points, 14 rebounds on 8-15 shooting.
- Nicolas Batum receives an A grade for holding Paul George to just 17 points on 5-23 field goals. Batum effectively shut down George from getting any action with the ball.
- George Hill and David West both combine for 67 points and just were unstoppable.
- The only notable statistic to list in the first half was holding Indiana to zero offensive rebounds. Give credit to the Pacers to making the right adjustment, and slowly but surely beating the Blazers in everything else. I know whom I will pick to beat the Heat for a Finals spot, no question.
I would actually recommend to watch footage of this match as it was extremely entertaining, even when the Blazers lose a sure heartbreaker that a win was just one offensive rebound away. Portland will be fighting tired legs tomorrow night as they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.