Blazers entertain in win over Pacers
Moda Center had a little something extra to offer Trail Blazer fans Thursday night.
There was controversy with a timeout promotion, a visit from Cedric The Entertainer and a rousing fourth quarter for the home team.
Portland outscored Indiana 26-12 over the final 12 minutes to break a tie after three quarters and pull out a 100-86 victory.
It was the second straight win for the Blazers (24-21) and their fifth in a row at Moda, a turnaround after the club had dropped six in a row at home in November and December.
"We're locked in a little bit more now," point guard Damian Lillard said. "We just had a rough stretch. We're not the first team or the last team to have that. The important thing is to stay with it. It's never as good or as bad as it seems."
The teams were tied at 74-74 after three, but only because Shabazz Napier stepped in to steal a pass and nailed a 3-point shot as time expired.
"We go into the fourth quarter down three if he doesn't make that play," said Lillard, who led Portland with 26 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds. "Then he knocked down a big shot. Those are the kind of things that turn the tide of a game. That was a game-changing play."
The Blazers were solid and the Pacers just awful in the fourth quarter, the latter making only 4 of 21 shots from the field, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range. Portland scored the first eight points of the quarter and never looked back.
"We weren't moving the ball, and we were settling, taking quick shots," said Indiana coach Nate McMillan, who coached the Blazers for 6 1/2 seasons before Terry Stotts took the reins. "A lot of it was them out-scrapping us. You can't give up 14 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points. That's the hustle game you have to win."
With Indiana center Myles Turner (elbow) sidelined for the fifth straight game, the Pacers used undersized power forward Domantas Sabonis in the post. Jusuf Nurkic had his way with the son of ex-Blazers giant Arvydas Sabonis, going for 19 points and 17 rebounds.
"'Nurk' played very well," Stotts said. "He had 19 and 17 and I don't know if I ran a play for him. He got all that with hard work."
Said Lillard: "That type of effort is what we need from him. He got in the paint and was finishing. He played strong. He was really locked in. On the defensive end, he was contesting shots at the rim. Those are the kind of games we're going to need from him."
Nurkic, listless most of the way in Tuesday's win over Phoenix, noted the anniversary of his trade from Denver is looming.
"It's almost a year since I got here," he said, mindful of the impact he made late in the 2016-17 regular season for the Blazers. "It will be February soon. I have to pick up where I left off (last season). It's about time to make another run for the playoffs. Tonight, it just clicked."
Lillard struggled with his shot through three quarters but scored half of his points in the fourth, when he was 6 for 6 at the foul line. He finished 8 for 21 from the field, 2 for 8 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 at the line.
CJ McCollum had a poor shooting night, too, going 6 for 18 en route to 16 points. The Blazers' shooting guard wasn't feeling well, and even left the court late in the third quarter to seek a barf bag.
"I felt a little sick throughout the game," said McCollum, who returned to play 10 minutes of the fourth period. "I always have to blow my nose because of allergies. I was coughing most of the game. I started coughing and it got stuck (in his chest), and I had to go find a trash can. But I'm OK."
There were diversions from the game, including a fan knocking down a shot in the long barrel to win $5,000 during a CenturyLink timeout promotion. Except it didn't count, because the ball bounced out of the barrel, which was against the rules. When it was announced the fan hadn't won the cash prize, a chorus of boos rocked the arena. At the next timeout, Todd Bosma, the Blazers' director/game ops, said CenturyLink had waived the rule and awarded the money. Popular demand ruled.
Then there was Cedric the Entertainer, enjoying the view from Adidas' courtside seats. The actor/comedian, headed for a performance in Seattle, stopped through Portland to watch a little basketball. He drew a nice hand when shown on the JumboTron in the second half.
Afterward, as he made his way from the men's facilities in the press room, Cedric commandeered the microphone before Stotts arrived, answering queries from the media.
What did you think of Nurkic?
"Big game. He'd been going to my camp most of last summer. You saw his footwork tonight, right? That was mainly due to me."
After Stotts arrived: What did you think of the Blazers' coaching job tonight?
"Let's just say this: He listened to me in the meetings earlier and did exactly what I said to do. You guys can tell the difference between when I'm here and when I'm not."
From Stotts, now seated with reporters and enjoying the show: Any suggestions going forward? "Do what you did tonight. It was fun, it was exciting. Everybody brought it, man. I enjoyed watching this game. I was glad to be here."
NOTES — The Blazers end a three-game home stand Saturday night against Dallas … Portland has won nine straight against Indiana at Moda Center. … Guards Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison each scored 23 points for the Pacers (24-21), who had won three straight. …Portland shot only .394 from the field, including 10 for 32 from the 3-point line. … Napier scored 13 points in 29 minutes off the bench but made only 4 of 12 shots from the field. Ed Davis contributed heavily off the bench with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting to go with eight boards in 16 minutes. … Stotts has been going with a nine-man rotation of late, with Napier, Davis, Zach Collins and Pat Connaughton coming off the bench. Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh are all riding the bench for now. … Lillard ranks seventh on the franchise career scoring list with 9,831 points. With 173 more points, he'll pass Jim Paxson (10,003) and reach No. 6 on the list.