Trailing by as many as 22, it looked as if the Blazers would chalk this one up as a loss early on. But as all Trail Blazer fans know, that is never the case with this Portland team. The road team would get as close as 8 in the fourth quarter, but were never able to get over the hump. The shorthanded Blazers ultimately fell to the playoff-hungry Brooklyn Nets, 106-96 on Monday night at Barclays Center.
With LaMarcus Aldridge sitting at home back in Portland, the Blazers were missing their leading scorer, and Damian Lillard knew that he would need to step up early on. Damian scored nine points and grabbed two boards in the first. Meyers Leonard got seven boards of his own in the period, and he would provide much, much more later in this contest. Joel Freeland picked up three fouls in two minutes in the first, thinning out the already thin Portland front line. Despite the shortage of big men, Portland out-rebounded Brooklyn by six in the first quarter. The Trail Blazers led 25-22 after one, holding the Nets to just 35 percent shooting.
Simply put, everything fell apart in the second. The Blazers shot just 4-of-18 in the period, which translates to 22 percent. Meanwhile, the Nets began to hit shots, shooting 50 percent in the quarter and 67 percent from three. The Trail Blazers shot 37 percent in the first half, and went into the locker room trailing 54-38.
After the atrocious second quarter, the Blazers managed to hang with the Nets in the third. Damian Lillard caught fire, and we all know how dangerous that can be. Dame finished with 14 points in the quarter, but unfortunately, the Nets continued to shoot well. Portland outscored Brooklyn by three points in the third, cutting the lead to 13 going into the final period.
Early on in the fourth quarter, it looked as if a Portland comeback was actually a possibility. Meyers Leonard was an absolute force, scoring the Blazers’ first 11 points of the fourth. The deficit was cut to as few as eight, but Nets seemed to have an answer for every major Portland run.
Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard led the way for the Trail Blazers. Lillard finished with 36 points and four rebounds on 14-of-26 shooting while Leonard had a season-high 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
With the loss, the Blazers are 1.5 games back of the Clippers for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Portland has just five regular season games left to play.
- Shooting percentage: Portland 44.8% — Brooklyn 45.1%
- Three point percentage: Portland 42.3% — Brooklyn 42.9%
- Free throws: Portland 7-9 — Brooklyn 18-23
- Rebounds: Portland 50 — Brooklyn 46
- Assists: Portland 17 — Brooklyn 25
- Points in the paint: Portland 44 — Brooklyn 54
- Fastbreak points: Portland 2 — Brooklyn 12
- Bench points: Portland 10 — Brooklyn 22
- Damian Lillard is the fifth NBA player to reach 1,600 points this season (James Harden, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James).
- Meyers Leonard led the Blazers in rebounds and assists at the half, with 10 and three, respectively.
- Meyers Leonard set a season-high in points and a career high in rebounds.
The Blazers will fly back from Brooklyn and have a day off before returning home to face the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. While the Wolves aren’t exactly a threat, Portland has struggled with them this year. If the Trail Blazers want to keep their small chance of getting home-court advantage alive, Wednesday’s contest is a must-win.