The Indiana Pacers came up short against the Portland Trailblazers by a score of 111-102. The final score isn’t a true indicator of the performance of the blue and gold, who’s perimeter defense and inability to secure rebounds allowed for Portland to rain from three. The Western Conference opponents shot 14-24 from three, with Damian Lilliard and Myles Leonard hitting five and four three pointers, respectively. The Pacers weren’t able to get anything going from the field early and the second unit struggled in the 4th quarter to let Portland open up a 20 point lead at the eight minute mark. The end of the bench unit brought some energy to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the final minutes to bring the final difference to nine.
Trail Blazers Dominate The First Half
The first quarter belonged to Damian Lillard, who scored 20 of Portland’s 39 points. He beat the Pacers with an arsenal of drives, pull ups, and daggers from deep.
Monta Ellis proved most effective in the first, but the offense was spread out among the five starters. The Pacers weren’t able to attack on the offensive boards like in previous games, with Blazers Noah Vonleh and Miles Plumlee matching the size of Myles Turner and Ian Mahimni.
Behind the hot hand of Lillard, the Trail Blazers set the tone of the game as a fast-paced affair. The second quarter saw Indiana slow down the effort from Portland, getting them to settle for jump shots and contested drives. The second unit kept pace with the first, having trouble finding any offensive flow. Jordan Hill found success in and around the lane, scoring six in the quarter. Monta Ellis had five assists at the half’s end, and Myles Turner once again played stout defense and contributed eight points.
The Blazers rode the hot hands of Meyers Leonard and Gerald Henderson to go up 65-54 at the half. CJ McCollum found success against the Pacers backcourt, scoring 14 points of his own.
The first unit picked up in the second half behind the jump shot of George Hill and Paul George. The defense turned up the intensity and forced bad passes to bring the game back to within five points. Once the starters left, the second unit wasn’t able to pick up the scoring and let the lead slip back to double digits.
The fourth quarter was when the scoring and defense completely unraveled for Indiana. Miscommunications on picks and on defensive switches allowed for Portland’s catalogue of shooters to get open looks and push the lead to over 20. The blame cannot fall on one particular aspect of the team as even Frank Vogel got in the action with a technical foul.
Once again, the size of the Trail Blazers kept Indiana from getting additional looks and the team noticeably suffered without extra jump shots that might come from tip outs or hustle plays. The Pacers looked defeated until rookie Joe Young and Glenn Robinson III came out with Chase Budinger, Lavoy Allen, and Rodney Stuckey to give Portland a scare late in the fourth. That unit kept the Portland starters on the court until the final whistle, finalizing a nine point defeat at home.
Four Game Road Trip
This home loss was a critical game for the Pacers, who begin a four game road trip Monday at Cleveland. They also catch the Bucks, Hornets, and Wizards away from home in the coming week, a tough slate of games for the sixth-seeded Pacers. In order to keep pace with the middle of the playoff pack, Indiana needs to come up strong starting tomorrow at Cleveland.
While LeBron James sat out of their contest tonight in order to rest up for Monday, the Pacers will look to build momentum with a big win at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Paul George, who was coming off a stretch of eight straight 20+ point contests will want to get back on track after falling short tonight. Look for Myles Turner to attack the Cleveland big men and Ian Mahimni to keep the energy going down low.
This game isn’t going to make or break the season, but a win would make the playoff push easier for the streaky Pacers.