The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Indiana Pacers 118-115 last night in a tight game that came down to the final possessions. The Blazers spoiled the debut of Pascal Siakam as a Pacer as well as the return of Tyrese Haliburton from injury.
Haliburton Returns From Injury as Siakam Makes Pacers Debut
The Pacers acquired Siakam at the trade deadline in exchange for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield. This was Siakam’s first game in a Pacers uniform after missing the last two contests with a groin injury (Sportskeeda).
Haliburton also returned after sitting out the last three games with elbow and back issues (ESPN). His presence was especially impactful as the Pacers had gone 1-2 without their talented young guard.
“It felt good to be back out there with my guys,” said Haliburton after the game. “Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I’m trying to get back to 100%” (Pacers Twitter).
Blazers Overcome Slow Start Behind Grant’s Scoring Outburst
The Trail Blazers started slow, falling behind 36-20 at the end of the first quarter. However, Jerami Grant took over in the second and third quarters, scoring 18 and 14 points respectively to give Portland a lead heading into the fourth (Houston Chronicle).
Grant finished with a season-high 37 points on 14-of-25 shooting. He also contributed 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks (Yahoo Sports). It was an all-around dominant performance for the Blazers’ leading scorer.
“Jerami put us on his back tonight,” said Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “He was determined to get this win for us” (Oregon Live).
The Blazers were without one of their top scorers in Anfernee Simons, who sat out with a left foot injury. This put even more pressure on Grant to produce offensively.
|Jerami Grant shoots over Pacers defender (Photo: Jackson Progress-Argus)
“Obviously you don’t want to have guys out, but we have a deep team,” Grant said after the win. “It just meant that guys had to step up tonight in Anfernee’s absence” (Pacers Twitter).
Pacers Battle Back Behind Haliburton and Brogdon
The Pacers refused to go away despite Grant’s onslaught. Haliburton scored 9 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, helping Indiana erase an 11-point deficit and tie the game at 113 with just over 90 seconds remaining *(Blazer’s Edge)**. The talented point guard did his best to lift his team to victory in his first game back.
Malcolm Brogdon also came alive for the Pacers in the fourth quarter. He scored 11 of his 26 points in the final period, including a clutch jumper with 37 seconds left that gave Indiana a 115-114 advantage – their first lead since the third quarter (Indy Star).
“We showed a lot of fight tonight,” Haliburton said. “Even when we got down double digits we battled back. We need to do a better job of playing with that intensity for 48 minutes” (NBA Twitter).
Blazers Regain Lead in Thrilling Final Seconds
Just when it looked like the Pacers might steal a victory, Jerami Grant came through in the clutch for Portland. His driving layup with 10 seconds left gave the Blazers a 117-115 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer. Josh Hart secured the rebound for Portland, got fouled, and knocked down one of two free throws to seal the 118-115 victory (Deadspin).
It was a thrilling finish between two hungry teams. In the end, Grant’s sensational scoring performance made the difference.
What This Means Moving Forward
Despite the loss, the Pacers have reason for optimism. Getting Haliburton back healthy is huge, both for the remainder of this season and the future of the franchise. His pick-and-roll chemistry with rookie center Isaiah Jackson could be lethal.
Add in Siakam, who the Pacers will continue integrating into the offense, and Indiana has a talented trio to build around. If Brogdon can stay consistent as a secondary scorer, this team could surprise people.
For Portland, this was an important gut-check win. It showed their resolve battling back on the road without one of their best perimeter threats.
Grant is playing at an All-Star level and looks fully capable of being the number one option offensively. Combine him with the scoring punch of Simons and sharpshooting of Hart and you have a dynamic backcourt.
With Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton still getting acclimated after his trade to Portland, the Blazers will need Grant’s offense if they hope to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture.
So while this was just one regular season game in January, it could have ramifications for both teams later in the year. The postseason fate of these clubs may come down to a couple wins here and there.
If they meet again in a play-in situation, we can expect another hard-fought battle between two hungry teams with plenty to prove. For one night, Jerami Grant made sure Rip City emerged victorious.
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