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Hustle, Defense Pitch Blazers to Win Over Pacers

The comeback of Deandre Ayton surpasses the debut of Pascal Siakam.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Indiana Pacers 118-115 on Friday night thanks to one of their best defensive performances of the year. A few crucial contributions from the bench and a small core of starters helped the club as a whole to win.

With 37 points on 14 of 28 shots, Jerami Grant led Portland, an accomplishment made even more remarkable by Pascal Siakam, the All-Star forward making his debut. Grant wasn’t protected by Siakam the entire evening, but Jerami was more than capable of handling the new Indiana celebrity.

In this game, Deandre Ayton made his comeback for the Blazers after missing 12 games with knee tendinitis and ice falls. Anfernee Simons was sick and missed the action. Scoot Henderson, the point guard, left the game with a nasal contusion after just eight minutes of play.

I’m sorry if you missed the game! However, our summary of each quarter will get you caught up. Here are some more important takeaways from the evening:

Better Rebounding

Portland dominated the Pacers in one of head coach Chauncey Billups’ favorite categories right from the start of the game thanks to their excellent play on the glass. Their chances were enhanced by a starting lineup that included Grant, Ayton, and Jabari Walker, who were all back. Indiana was theoretically still slightly larger than the Blazers, but they weren’t outmatched.

Throughout the game, the Pacers grabbed 6 offensive rebounds, but just 3 in the first half. Overall, Portland prevailed 47–37 in the rebounding contest. For the home team, getting the fundamentals right made everything else go more smoothly.

The Ayton Effect

The moment Deandre Ayton took the court for the opening lineup introductions, it was clear how big of a difference Portland had, and the point held true for the majority of the evening. A genuine 7-footer with some experience and scoring ability is just unmatched. The three-point proficiency of Duop Reath is remarkable. Ayton is unable to overshadow or echo it. However, Ayton provided the Blazers with an interior scoring option that they had been without for twelve games.

He made a whole new area of the court available for scoring, which forced the Pacers defense to be either beat or honest—or both, occasionally. Even while he may not be everything Blazers supporters had hoped for when they acquired him, Ayton is now the best player Portland has at the position. After 30 minutes of play, Ayton finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Pacers at the Arc

In response to Portland’s more expansive lineup, the Pacers forced the Blazers to scurry to guard the three-point arc. Indiana attempted 27 three-pointers at the half and ended up making 47, making 42.6% of them.

On most possessions, the Blazers did a respectable job of containing the Pacers’ first threat from a distance. Portland didn’t come into the game blind. But let’s be honest. Some of Portland’s small-ball lines will be able to get around the floor faster than Ayton, Walker, and the majority of their replacements.

The Blazers finished the first half with a strong run of three-point defense. Although they forced Indiana to set up plays again and burn time in order to obtain an open look, they weren’t able to stop them from shooting there.

However, Portland focused heavily on their size, inside defense, and rebounding throughout the most of the game, staying near to the basket. One pass resulted in an open attempt when they were closing in on a Pacers shooter. Indiana shot lights out because of this. Thankfully, they did not release Portland’s as well.

The Malcolm Brogdon Effect

The Blazers might as well get matching “Next Man Up” tattoos throughout the locker room with how the season has gone thus far. Malcolm Brogdon gave Portland the “Up” tonight because Anfernee Simons was sick, Shaedon Sharpe was sidelined for a bit, and Scoot Henderson pulled off a Marcia Brady prom nose flip. In just 37 minutes of play, he scored 30 points on 9–18 shooting, made 10–10 free throws, pulled down 7 rebounds, gave 6 assists, stole the ball, and blocked one. Beyond the boxscore, he was able to shoot well, control the ball well, and create opportunities for Ayton and occasionally other teammates to get solid looks.

No one can match the bearing and vision of Brogdon, even his younger, more agile court colleagues. As he controls the ball up above, you can see it. Even if he won’t produce a look quite as dynamic as Sharpe or Henderson, it will still likely be superior in general. The fact that this occurs while his team is continuously rearranging—and occasionally breaking up—around him is a great credit to his abilities.

Switcheroo

For all the height and lineup shuffling, the Blazers still got caught in a fair number of mismatches against Indiana. The Pacers screened smartly, forcing Portland to switch, leaving bigs on the outside and Brogdon on Siakam or Walker on center Myles Turner. Credit the Indiana coaching staff for prepping their players to maneuver the Blazers into weaknesses, even on one of their best defensive nights of the year.

Guarding

To what extent was the defense effective? Just 26 points were allowed by the Blazers to Indiana in the paint, with the majority coming from fast breaks. To put things in perspective, this season the Pacers have averaged 57.2 points in the paint each game. Portland kept them to 31 points under their mean. For a team that usually gives up 31 paint points in the opening eighteen minutes of the game, it is shocking.

Who cares that the Blazers slightly cheated by shading inside? It was successful. Well done for letting that banner fly once you picked it up. The season would appear much more promising if the Blazers could perform so well each night.

Jabari Walker

Jabari Walker is adored by the Portland coaching staff due to his intensity, his gruff demeanor, and his willingness to get his hands dirty in both rebounding and defense. He did all of that tonight in addition to fulfilling a vital role as a late-game saver.

Walker sank a string of foul shots to keep his team in the game as Indiana mounted a run in the fourth quarter and cut Portland’s advantage down from 13 points to just 5. He received passes, read the floor, entered the seams by the rim, and converted effectively. At that point, his positioning and attitude served as a counterbalance to the Blazers’ otherwise disorganized and divided club. To stop Portland from scoring any more, he also grabbed the rebound that ended the game and made a free throw after being fouled.

Walker ended with 13 points, 2 blocks, 3 assists, and 12 rebounds in the game. As it happened, Portland required every ounce of it to ward off Indiana.

Up Next

The Blazers and Lakers play on Sunday night in Los Angeles at 7:00 PM (Pacific).

Yachiga Tavershima
Yachiga Tavershimahttps://goalsvibe.com
Soccer Blogger with a keen eye for detailed reportage. I bring the latest drama in the most dramatic way
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