x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Portland Trail Blazers are for real, as Indian Pacers can now attest

"They're a good team. They only had one loss. But we're a good team too," said Portland guard Damian Lillard after the Trail Blazers dropped the league-leading Indian Pacers 106-102 on Monday night.

Damian Lillard had 26 points for Portland on Monday night. Don Ryan / AP
Damian Lillard had 26 points for Portland on Monday night. Don Ryan / AP

PORTLAND, United States // After Portland had withstood a late barrage from the Indiana Pacers and Paul George, the Trail Blazers gathered at midcourt and raised their hands together.

It might be early in the season, but this was a statement win for the Blazers.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Portland downed Indiana 106-102 Monday night, snapping the Pacers’ seven-game winning streak. Damian Lillard added 26.

“It was a tough one, and we knew it was going to be a tough one going in,” Lillard said. “They’re a good team, they only had one loss. But we’re a good team too, and we wanted to prove that.”

Paul George had a career-high 43 points for the Pacers (16-2), who own the NBA’s best record.

The Blazers pulled in front early in the fourth quarter, but the Pacers kept it close and George hit consecutive 3-pointers that narrowed it to 98-96 with 1:37 left. Lillard answered with a 3-pointer and Nicolas Batum made a pair of free throws for the Blazers before George hit another 3-pointer that got Indiana within 103-99 with 21 seconds to go.

Lillard hit free throws and George made yet another 3 with 10 seconds left to make it 105-102, but the Pacers couldn’t get closer. Portland (15-3) are off to their best start since the 1998-99 season.

“I really wanted to get this win,” said George, one of just four Indiana players to score 43 or more points in a game since 2000. “I was trying to will us into the game.”

Both teams were playing the second of a back-to-back. The Blazers beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 114-108, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Lakers at the Staples Center.

The Pacers (16-2) were coming off a 105-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday to open a five-game road trip.

“They’re a great offensive team and they made big shots all game long,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said of Portland. “Hopefully that’s what it’s going to take to beat this team – making impossible shot after impossible shot.”

Earlier Monday, the NBA named Vogel the Eastern Conference coach of the month for November. Portland’s Terry Stotts was named coach of the month for the Western Conference.

The Pacers went 15-1 in November and opened the season with a nine-game winning streak for the best start in franchise history. The Blazers went 13-3 under Stotts to start the season, including an 11-game winning streak.

While Stotts acknowledged it was a big win, he stopped short of the whole “statement” thing.

“We played the most complete game from beginning to end: Execution, effort, mental focus. All of those things,” he said. “But I don’t believe you play statement games in December.

George had a 14-foot jumper that gave the Pacers an early 20-11 lead, but the Blazers hung close through the first half. Mo Williams, who helped Portland keep up with seven points, had three fouls and was sent to the bench.

The Blazers finished out the first half with a 9-3 run to get within 46-45 at the break.

Aldridge’s dunk pulled Portland within 59-54 midway through the third quarter, but George answered with an 18-foot jumper on the other end for Indiana. Orlando Johnson’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 64-56 and it looked as if the Pacers were pulling away.

But Aldridge hit a flat 20-foot jumper and made a free throw and Joel Freeland dunked to even it at 70. Lillard hit a 3-pointer and the Blazers took a 75-72 lead, their first of the game. Portland went up 86-78 on Wesley Matthews’ 3-pointer to make it 86-78.

Matthews was asked afterward what the win meant: “That we’re a pretty damn good team,” he replied.

It was Aldridge’s 14th game this season with 20 or more points. The two-time All-Star has eight double-doubles this season.

“They’re good,” Aldridge said. “I just had one of those nights.”


Spurs 102, Hawks 100

Tim Duncan hit the game-winning basket with 0.4 of a second to go, giving the San Antonio Spurs a 102-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

The 37 year old turned in a vintage performance that included 23 points and 21 rebounds.

The Spurs (15-3) earned their 16th consecutive victory over the Hawks in San Antonio. The last time Atlanta won in the city was February 15, 1997.

The Hawks (9-10) worked hard to get first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer the win. It was his first trip back to San Antonio, where he spent 19 years, first as a video coordinator and then as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s lead assistant.

Pelicans 131, Bulls 128 (Triple overtime)

Jrue Holiday’s driving layup and three-point play with 2.6 seconds left in the third overtime period gave the New Orleans Pelicans a marathon victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago forward Mike Dunleavy missed a potential tying three-pointer at the buzzer and the Bulls (7-9) lost for the first time at home this season, and are now 1-4 since losing guard Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury.

Ryan Anderson topped New Orleans with 36 points and New Orleans (9-8) won their third straight, all on the road.

Jazz 109, Rockets 103

Gordon Hayward snapped out of a slump and rookie Trey Burke had a career night as the suddenly hot Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets.

Hayward scored a season-high 29 points and Burke totalled career bests with 21 points and six assists in the victory, their first consecutive triumph of the season.

Guard James Harden scored a game-high 37 points for the Rockets (13-6), who saw their five-game winning streak snapped.

Wizards 98, Magic 80

Trevor Ariza scored 24 points, point guard John Wall had 16 points and 13 assists and the Washington Wizards posted their largest win of the season.

The Wizards have won seven of nine games. At 9-9, Washington own a .500 record for the first time since November 3, 2009, when the team started the season 2-2.