The Portland Trail Blazers have had a rough season and that showed Sunday in a 31-point, 129-98 loss in Indianapolis to the Pacers. Earlier this season the Trail Blazers front office decided to go the rebuilding route for the rest of the season. Portland has used injuries and trades this season as a way to sit key players as they look to get good draft positioning this summer.
Sunday’s loss at Indiana resulted in a season split for the two teams at one game apiece. Sunday’s win over Portland was Indiana’s second straight after a 121-118 victory in Houston Friday against the Rockets. The loss extended Portland’s current skid to four games. Indiana meanwhile improved its home record against Portland to 26-22 while the series all-time favors Portland 59-37. Portland falls to 26-44 sitting fourth in the Northwest Division and 12th in the Western Conference. The Pacers, while eliminated from playoff contention improved to 25-47 on the season, sit fourth in the Central Division and 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.
Pregame quotes from coach Billups
While falling to the Brooklyn Nets a few days earlier, coach Billups talked pregame about their strengths and how they were going to play going forward.
“I just think we want to continue to play the same way, I thought in Brooklyn we did such a good job of paying attention to the details,” Billups said. “Things that we talked about we would do offensively before the game and defensively, thought the level of physicality that we brought to the game was impactful. So, for me it’s about that, it’s really not about our opponent. It’s about what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to teach and just continue to build on those things that we’ve done very well.”
Story of the game
Portland got out to a rough start early at Gainbridge Fieldhouse falling into foul trouble late in the first quarter. This sent the Pacers to the line before the first quarter had even ended. The early foul trouble combined with sloppy plays leading to turnovers had the Pacers leading 35-22 after one. Portland found themselves in an even deeper hole at halftime after sloppy turnovers and missed shots led to a 69-48 Pacers lead.
Portland shot just 46.91% while Indiana shot 57.14% from the field on the game. Portland coach Chauncey Billups said they weren’t at their best effort today. Sunday, Portland wasn’t able to close out on defense on the 3-point arc either. That showed with Portland going 9-for-33 for 27.27% on the game from three while Indiana went 15-35 for 42.86% on the game. This season Indiana has held opponents to 11.6 3-pointers made per game for sixth best in the NBA. Portland on the other hand this season has ranked eighth best with 13.1 threes made per game. The Pacers were able to hold Portland well under average from three, a key factor in their victory.
Indiana outrebounded Portland by nine, 41-32 and collected 24 points off 18 Portland turnovers. The Pacers also had four more fast break points than the Trail Blazers with 19 to Portland’s 15. Since January 1, Portland has held opponents to an average of 45.5 points in the paint but weren’t able to do so Sunday. Indiana since January 1 has averaged 49.9 points in the paint per game, but Sunday, the Pacers hauled in a whopping 60 points in the paint.
While both teams ended up with 19 personal fouls, Indiana played a cleaner game, had more contributions and held Portland below average in multiple categories. The Trail Blazers were simply outplayed.
Key contributors for each team
Oshae Brissett led the Pacers with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and one assist. He was one of seven Pacers players in double figures. Justin Anderson collected 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting paired with six rebounds and four assists. Jalen Smith grabbed 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with five rebounds. Terry Taylor poured in 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting paired with two rebounds and two assists. Goga Bitadze picked up 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with two rebounds and three assists. Tyrese Haliburton grabbed 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting paired with four rebounds and seven assists.
These seven players helped the Pacers overpower a Portland squad filled with reserves and some players who may not be in a Trail Blazers uniform come next season.
Josh Hart led Portland with 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go with three rebounds and four assists. He was one of six Portland players in double figures. Trendon Watford collected 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting paired with eight rebounds and three assists. Drew Eubanks picked up 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Kris Dunn grabbed 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting paired with one rebound and nine assists. Ben McLemore collected 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Brandon Williams picked up 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting including 4-of-7 from the charity stripe and picked up two assists. Lance Stephenson led the Pacers in assists with 11 and picked up a team leading three steals on the night.
Hart explained how you can see inexperience in several different ways in this league. Unfortunately for Portland, this really showed Sunday afternoon in getting blown out by the Pacers. But it also allows the opportunity for growth and a possible glimpse of the future.
“Every game you got to come out with intensity, come out with energy, with focus,” Hart said.
Sunday’s game was Portland’s eighth in the last nine games and some players such as Hart were feeling it a bit.
“I feel like I got hit by a truck,” Hart said. “I mean a week road trip and one home game then another week road trip. So, it’s definitely rough especially time zones, times change, and that kind of thing. So, it was tough.”
Hart wrapped back around and touched on the fact that they have a lot of young guys who are out there flying around. Hart said as an older guy they can feel a little bit tired, but how that’s no excuse. With guys out due to injuries they need the others to step up and learn how to play in this league. Hart feels that those younger guys are doing just that. He said it took him three years to find his niche in the league and that the guys now are working hard to find that.
The announced attendance at Gainbridge Fieldhouse was 16,067 a day after the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s March Madness Tournament had wrapped up in town.
Portland will take on the Detroit Pistons Monday at 7:00 p.m. EST at Little Caesars Arena. It was announced Monday that Hart was ruled out against Detroit due to a knee issue. No further specifics were given meaning it’s likely a rest move on the second of a back-to-back. The Pacers host the Sacramento Kings Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.