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Blazers Step Up to Plate in New Orleans, Concuss Themselves

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In their second straight game without Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers look awful.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In an unannounced special event at Smoothie King Arena this evening, the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans put on their own rendition of Karaoke Night. No doubt you're familiar with the traditional (and ghastly) bar staple wherein people who have no business singing get liquored up and pretend like they're the next American Idol, pitch falling fall short of the intended notes and dignity strewn all over the floor. Substitute "shots falling far short of the intended range" for pitch (while retaining all the ghastliness and lost dignity) and you have a pretty good summation of the performance put on by the Blazers and Pelicans.

The first quarter of this game was a symphony of ugly. The Pelicans ignored Anthony Davis completely, choosing instead to loft three-pointer after three-pointer. They ended up with a ridiculous 11 attempts in the period, making only 2. The Blazers played within their offense, working the ball to the center of the court habitually and scoring reasonably well. But the Blazers couldn't hold onto the rock to save their lives. As hard as New Orleans struggled in the halfcourt offense, they made points after turnovers look laughably easy. The result was a 26-23 lead for the Pelicans after one.

The bottom fell out of Portland's offense in the second period. The Blazers' bench emulated the turnover follies of the starters. Their three-pointers refused to fall and Meyers Leonard turned down open shots like they were quadruple helpings of rubbery Christmas goose. The offense strayed late into the clock and offensive rebounds provided the only bright spots on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile New Orleans wasn't much better. Davis had to make a technical free throw with 1:30 remaining to push his point total in the period to 3. Tyreke Evans shish-kabobbed Portland in the late going, giving New Orelans a 53-36 advantage at the half. His outburst was like a moment of blessed relief in the middle of passing a kidney stone. It wasn't much, but at least for a second it didn't hurt so bad.

Side Note: The two teams combined for 14 free throws in the entire first half. Even the refs didn't want to watch any more of this game than necessary. They kept their whistles in their pockets and said, "Play on. Quickly!"

Portland had a few nice moments in the second half--a 9-0 run in the third, Leonard coming alive after the game was out of reach--but the Blazers' defense plummeted off the same cliff the offense had swan-dived off of earlier. Portland actually managed 53 points in the final two quarters. (Yay!) They allowed New Orleans 62. (Ugh.) After shooting in the low-30-percentile range for most of the first half, the Pelicans ended up at 48% with 115 points on the board. The Blazers turned the karaoke princess into Taylor Swift.

Portland's 115-89 loss brought a merciful end to an 0-5 late-December road trip, the first time the Blazers have accomplished that dubious feat since 1974.

A couple players deserve mention despite the utter lack of success tonight. Mason Plumlee played his heart out and all but dominated the first half with his offensive rebounding and defensive hustle. Gerald Henderson and the late-blooming Leonard each shot 5-9. CJ McCollum scored 19 but shot 8-21 to get there. Blazer's Edge contributor Eric Griffith notes the following:

As we probably could have predicted, New Orleans did everything they could to keep McCollum out of the lane. When McCollum did get past the first line of defense the big men funneled him away from away from the middle so he couldn't get any easy shot attempts. He barely set foot in the lane in the first half.

The effects: His only two shots in the lane in the entire first half were ill-advised lay-up attempts that were blocked. With no penetration from their point guard, Portland struggled to get open looks from deep, shooting 2-14 from 3 in the half.

New Orleans paid way less attention to secondary options. Henderson was allowed to go 1v1 in the mid-range whenever he wanted and scored several points, but that is not sustainable offense.

Get well soon, Damian Lillard.

Now we shall never...speak of this road trip...again.

Boxscore

Instant Recap, rather cruelly titled on the front page for folks who didn't miss the game.

The Bird Writes

The Trail Blazers return home to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

As we related on Monday, hundreds of tickets at a time are being requested for Blazer's Edge Night, the event where we send 2000 underprivileged kids to see the Blazers play the Sacramento Kings on March 28th. Those kids will get to go as long as we donate enough tickets to them. It's easy! You can donate through this link:

http://www.rosequarter.com/blazersedge

Promo Code: BLAZERSEDGE

Ticket Costs range from $7-13 (There is a $5 processing fee per order.)

You can also call our ticket rep, Lisa Swan, directly at 503-963-3966. You will need to indicate to her that you are donating the tickets you order to Blazer's Edge Night.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge