The Portland Trail Blazers overcame poor starts in the first quarter and third quarter to fight off an upset bid by the Charlotte Hornets Friday night and win 105-95 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Blazers, playing without Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant, would have still had no excuse to drop this game against the 3-9 Hornets, who have played this entire season without LaMelo Ball and were also without Gordon Hayward on Wednesday.
Yet, the Blazers allowed themselves to fall behind 30-20 in the second quarter before taking a 58-53 lead at halftime. Then to start the third quarter, the Blazers watched the Hornets jump out to a 19-2 run to take a 72-60 with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter.
Keep in mind that all of this was occurring against a team that entered the night ranked 24th in scoring (109.1 points per game) and 28th in offensive rating (106.9).
But following a timeout, the Blazers corrected themselves and outscored the Hornets 26-7 the rest of the third quarter to lead 86-79 going into the fourth. Much of the initial part of that run was led by the younger core of Jabari Walker, Trendon Watford, Shaedon Sharpe and Drew Eubanks.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 26 points while making 6 of 12 threes. Anfernee Simons added 19 points and Sharpe came off the bench to score 17.
The Blazers shot 53.5% from the field but made just 11 of 34 threes (32.4%) and once again struggled in the turnover department with 17.
The Hornets received 20 points from Terry Rozier. They shot just 37.4% from the field and 25% on threes.
WHAT IT MEANS
Even without Nurkic and Grant in the lineup, it would have stung to allow this one get away, much in the fashion that Phoenix lamented allowing Portland to steal a victory on Friday while playing without Lillard and Simons. The Blazers (8-3) are now guaranteed to finish this six-game trip with at least a .500 record.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
The Blazers, for the most part, controlled the game in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite put the Hornets away. In fact, Charlotte trailed just 103-95 with 1:21 after Mason Plumlee scored on a dunk.
But at the other end, Simons came back with a drive down the lane and scored on a dunk to give Portland a 105-95 lead with 1:03 remaining. Charlotte called a timeout but never scored again on Portland’s defense.
The Oregon State product out of Reynolds High School filled in nicely for Nurkic, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with 10 points coming in the first quarter. He also added eight rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots.
The Blazers travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook). Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts