Let me start tonight’s recap by mourning the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant; as well his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. For my generation, Kobe was more than just an accomplished player—he was a cultural icon that sparked a massive love for the game of basketball. It is with heavy hearts tonight that we enjoy the game he gave so much to.
Players, coaches, fans, and everyone across the NBA and sports community mourned the loss of a true competitor earlier today.
- Portland Trail Blazers (19-27): Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside
- Indiana Pacers (30-16): TJ McConnell, JaKarr Sampson, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, Myles Turner
McCollum returned to the fold for Portland after missing the last three game with an ankle injury against Dallas nine days ago.
As in other games around the association today, the Blazers started tonight’s matchup with a 24-second shot clock violation, followed by an 8-second violation from the Hornets; paying tribute to Bryant’s jersey numbers.
The Trail Blazers looked motivated early, jumping out to a quick 14-5 run against former Portland head coach Nate McMillan &amp; Co. in the first few minutes.
Lillard pushed the Blazers to a nine-point first quarter lead behind 17 points and 5 assists, including making his first four shots.
Jermaine O’Neal, who was the 17th overall pick by the Blazers in 1996 and later a six-time all-star with the Pacers, was interviewed during the second quarter by Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd. O’Neal, who was self-described as “really close with Kobe,” discussed his relationship with the Black Mamba and developing his basketball venture on the live broadcast.
During the interview, the Pacers cut the lead to six after a breakaway dunk by Justin Holiday. The Blazers powered back offensively, though, finishing the half with 66 points and a 10-point lead.
Notable first half stats included 23pts, 9ast from Lillard; 15pts from McCollum; 18pts on 7/9 from Sabonis; and 10pts on 3/4 3PM from Doug McDermott.
There was still a dark cloud hanging over this game, though, noted by the frequent references to Kobe’s life and career and extensive studio coverage of the news during pregame halftime, and postgame shows.
Portland pushed the lead to 13 by the eight and a half minute mark in the third quarter behind consecutive 3s from Dame and CJ. The former is still out here making audacious three-point shots on the nightly, something that’s pretty much regular to us by now.
Portland’s passing was on another level tonight, and it really heated up in the third—the highlight being Dame’s nifty behind-the-back pass to set up 2 points for Whiteside.
Dame crossed the 34-point mark for the fifth straight game on the second to last possession of the quarter.
Portland start letting Indiana back into the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Pacers cut the lead to eight with as many minutes left. They also benefitted from a pair of puzzling missed calls, the first coming as Caleb Swanigan was run into on an inbounds pass and the second from a shove on Lillard by McConnell.
The frustration got to Dame, which is actually a good thing for him. He nailed a signature deep three off a screen in response to yet another non-call, causing McMillan to call time.
Lillard finally got a call with 5:11 to go in the game, but certainly paid the price. He was hit in a certain tender area by Warren, emulating loud gasps throughout the Moda Center after each replay. The play was reviewed and a flagrant was given for unnecessary contact. Lillard turned the two free throws into a five-point play, giving him 44 points on the night. 47 came one possession later.
McDermott continued to hit big shots, but he was no match for Dame. The scariest part about The Letter O’s performance was that he did it so casually.
Hassan Whiteside has been really impressive night on defense tonight. He earned his sixth block with just over four minutes to go. The starting center also added 21 points and 14 rebounds, including six from the offensive glass.
In the midst of a tragic day, the Blazers put together one of their most impressive showings of the season—against an impressive team, no less. The Ariza addition looks to be paying dividends. His genuine three-point threat stretched the floor for the offense, which seemed to get the best out of all five starters.
But it always helps when Dame’s in full takeover mode. Portland’s point guard finished with 50, 13, and 6. He now has an insane 158 points over the last three games.
The Blazers now get two days of full rest before hosting the Houston Rockets (28-16) on Wednesday night.
- Dame – 50p/13a/6r on 14/23FG, 8/123PM, and 14/16FT
- CJ – 28p/5a on 11/21FG
- Melo – 14p
- Hassan – 21p/14r/6b on 9/11FG
- Lamb – 28p on 10/15FG
- McDermott – 19 on 6/11FG
- Sabonis – 27p/11a/14r