The Portland Trail Blazers failed to overcome the Indiana Pacers last minute push as they fell 108-99 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Blazers and Pacers fought an ugly game that saw neither team shoot efficiently the whole night.
If you missed the game, you can catch up through our quarter-by-quarter recap here. Once you have read that, here are six observations from tonight’s loss.
The Blazers turned the ball over a whopping five times in the first quarter, and followed that up with another six in the next frame. They ended up with 18 for the game, and the Pacers made most of those chances. 29 points off of turnovers for the Pacers helped them mitigate a poor shooting night with easy chances in transition. Sloppy play from the Blazers plagued them all night and seemed to take the wind out of the sails of a team that needed a kick. Inability to gain momentum late in the game ended up costly for the Blazers, and turnovers throughout the contest did nothing to remedy that.
Bench woes continue
The Blazers starters put up numbers once again. With all five scoring at least 12 points, and combining for 80 between them, the Blazers got a lot of good minutes from their starters. However, the league’s lowest scoring bench by over two points per game contributed just 19 points in the loss, with eleven of those from Jabari Walker alone. Walker was a bright spot to his credit. He had a career high in points, and got six rebounds in just 14 minutes. Other than Walker, the bench trio of Keon Johnson, Drew Eubanks, and Shaedon Sharpe had just eight points in 41 minutes of total time between them. The Blazers need consistent good minutes from their bench if they want to be able to weather the storm when their starters are out, and so far this season, they haven’t gotten that.
Despite a low scoring effort from the bench, Walker probably had the best game of his young career, eleven points and six rebounds. But the numbers do not tell the full story of his performance.
Out of his six boards, four of his rebounds were on the offensive glass and he added a steal and an assist. He also played with an excess of energy. He played like a guy who has nothing to lose and is playing with house money. The penultimate pick in the draft this season has cemented a spot in the rotation of a playoff hopeful in Portland through hard work and doing the dirty work. He has been a player to watch so far this season, and he showed exactly why he is an intriguing player for the remainder of this Blazers season.
Unable to close
The main difference between the 19-19 Blazers and the early season 10-3 Blazers is their ability to close games.
Early in the season the Blazers were dominant in the clutch. They won multiple games with game winning shots late in the clock, or buzzer beaters. Recently, the Blazers have not looked the same at all. In this game alone they missed their last 13 field goal attempts and let up a 9-0 run to the Pacers after being tied late in the fourth quarter. With high level shot makers in Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Jerami Grant it is puzzling to see. The inability to win close games late has been a major factor in the Blazers’ 9-16 record since their red hot start, and it hurts them again tonight.
Aggressive on the boards
The Blazers were dominant on the glass despite their losing effort. They out-rebounded the Pacers 52-41 and had 12 offensive boards included in that total. That rebounding discrepancy kept the Blazers close for most of the game despite shooting just 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from deep. Jusuf Nurkic and Josh Hart did most of the heavy lifting in that total with 19 and 10 rebounds respectively. The two of them kept the Pacers off the offensive glass for most of the game, severely limiting their second chance opportunities.
The Blazers had twelve offensive boards, while limiting the Pacers to just four. That led to a 16-4 difference in second chance points, a category a poor shooting Blazers squad needed to win. It didn’t end in a win, but the amount of extra opportunities created kept the Blazers in the game for longer than they should have been.
The Blazers fouled less than the Pacers in this contest, having just 19 to the Pacers’ 22. However you could easily think differently just by looking at free throw numbers. The Pacers shot eleven more free throws than the Blazers, which led to eleven more points from the line. In a game that was decided by just nine points, that discrepancy could have been the difference. Fouling shooters more than just normal open court fouls hurt the Blazers in this contest, and led to another game where they took less free throws than their opponent. No significant foul trouble from any Blazers is a nice change of pace, but fouls hurting the Blazers for the second straight game hurts to see.
The Blazers are back in action for the final game of their three game road trip in Toronto for a 12:30 pm game on Sunday.