Once again, the Pacers let a hot start and double-digit lead slip away in a 106-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pacers showed plenty of fight, rallying late after falling behind by 21 points, but struggles executing on offense kept the Pacers from every having a real chance to steal the W.
Damian Lillard paced the Blazers with 30 points and 15 assists, while Myles Turner finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
Both teams appeared willing to force the other’s center to beat them and as the game starter, both Myles Turner and Jusuf Nurkic were up to the task. Nurkic scored or assisted on the Blazers first 14 points, while Turner pick n’ popped his way to a hot start, scoring 13 first-quarter points.
Once Turner had it going, his teammates joined in to push the Pacers to an early 11-point lead. But before the quarter ended, the Blazers lopped eight points off the deficit with Damian Lillard taking over to create buckets for himself and others.
While the Pacers made three of four three-pointers early, the Blazers countered with 20 points in the paint, lead by the bully-ball attack of Nurkic. But Damian Lillard would be the problem the Pacers couldn’t solve.
The Pacers pushed the lead back to 11 in the second quarter thanks to an offensive outburst from Doug McDermott with a pair of threes and a post up bucket in the paint over Seth Curry. The first corner three was sweet, mainly for the baseline pass by Thad Young, a fastball that zip passed an unaware Evan Turner who was glancing elsewhere. The second not bad either, courtesy of Tyreke.
But once again, the Blazers cut into the lead thanks mainly to some careless possessions resulting in turnovers or bad shots. Myles Turner returned to the game to stop a Portland 8-0 run with another perimeter make.
However, with Lillard dealing the Blazers continued rolling with a 16-2 run to take the lead, then the Blazers threw another late 9-0 including a Steph-esque three from the Blazers logo by Lillard who finished the half with 18 points and 8 assist. More than enough to nullify the 18 points from Myles Turner and leave the Pacers trailing 55-48 at the break.
Third quarter woes continued for the Pacers as Portland caught fire from three-land making five of their first six threes in the quarter and eight of 13 overall. Al-Farouq Aminu made all four of his three-point attempts, as the Blazers kept the Pacers scrambling on defense leaving the bulk of those threes uncontested.
Portland won the third by nine points to push the lead to 16 heading to the fourth quarter. Late in the third, the Pacers issues were illustrated well when Tyreke Evans broke down his defender before dropping off a nice pass to Sabonis for a reverse layup that was a good second after the shot clock went off.
While it looked like the Pacers may cruise home, Doug McDermott, again breathed life into the Pacers with a pair of quick-release threes to force a timeout and cut what had become a 21-point deficit to 13. Then Tyreke Evans scored 5 in a row and the lead was down to 10 halfway through the fourth quarter.
Too many empty offensive possessions doomed the Pacers the rest of the way. There were enough stops, but clunky offense thanks mainly to bad spacing and turnovers and then missed open threes. Portland was stuck on 100 points for four minutes late in the fourth but the Pacers only scored three points in that time.
Over the final 5:30 of the game, the Blazers scored just two points until the Pacers were forced to foul inside the final 30 seconds. This after cutting the lead to five points with 24 seconds remaining, but it would be too little too late.
Much like the loss in Denver, a frustrating road loss for the Pacers peppered with plenty of ‘if only’ moments, especially down the stretch.
No rest for the Pacers as they head to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers on Tuesday night.