The Pacers enjoyed little resistance against the Suns and Jazz in their last two games, but Portland delivered a strong defensive effort throughout the game. The Blazers entered the game ranked seventh in the league in defensive efficiency and it showed early as they slowed down the Pacers and put up an early 10-point lead.
The Pacers adjusted to the pressure and started battling back, putting together a 13-2 run to eventually take the lead at the end of the first quarter. Pushing back against the Blazers took extra effort, as Thad Young showed here to save a possession and bucket for the Pacers.
But Jusuf Nurkic didn’t give up the ball easy and rebounding overall was a struggle against the stout and and active Portland frontcourt. Portland won the rebound battle 57-46 thanks to 14 offensive rebounds which led to 25 second-chance points.
Accounting for Nurkic on the defensive end was equally challenging for the Pacers and a ticky tack third foul on Sabonis late in the second quarter didn’t help. Portland took advantage and reeled off a 6-0 run to close out the half.
End of quarters was a big problem for the Pacers. C.J. McCollum drained a corner three at the buzzer to end the first quarter. After the 6-0 run to end the second quarter, the Blazers added another 6-0 with a corner three at the buzzer by Shabazz Napier to end the third quarter.
That run turned into a game-deciding 21-2 run as the Blazers poured it on in the fourth quarter to frustrate the Pacers and put away the win.
Nurkic was a beast finishing with 19 points and 17 rebounds while Damian Lillard closed strong to finish with 26 points.
Darren Collison tried to keep the Pacers in touch with an impressive shooting performance, scoring 23 points on 14 shots, making 5 of 6 three-pointers.
Victor Oladipo also added 23 points but needed 25 shots to get there as the Pacers star struggled with good looks at the hoop all night. And he wasn’t the only one.
Taking away Collison’s sizzling night from behind the arc, the Pacers were just 2 for 21 from three-land.
The Pacers really missed Myles Turner just for the front-court playing rotation as Ed Davis caused problems off the bench for Portland. Also, Lance Stephenson ended up playing despite being sick all day and then he played like he was sick. His signature energy was lacking and while you have to appreciate Lance’s effort to play through the sickness, he just wasn’t effective.
Along with Collison, Thaddeus Young was a bright spot for the Pacers, giving plenty of extra effort to chase down 50-50 balls and grabbing four offensive rebounds to finish with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Oladipo struggled shooting the ball but he did have his highlight moments including turning away this Nurkic shot in the paint but jumping higher than Mt. Hood to meet the big guy at the summit.
The Pacers travel to Los Angeles after the game where they will play the Lakers on Friday night. After the frustrating loss in Portland, they should be happy to get back out on the court to fight for another win.