Tonight was another rough night for the Trail Blazers, as DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans trounced the home team in front of the Moda Center crowd. Led by Boogie’s 38 points, New Orleans overcame the absence of Anthony Davis to grab a nice victory over a Western Conference foe.
The Blazers two-man game of Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard came out firing in the first. Nurkic’s points at the rim helped to open the floor for Lillard from deep. Portland paid tribute to the greatness of Dolly Parton with the resulting 9-5 lead. But the Pelicans were able to keep pace thanks to an unlikely three-point-shooting trio of E’Twaun Moore, Jrue Holiday, and Rajon Rondo. Lillard proved stronger than that motley crew, though. Portland’s 28-17 lead marked the highpoint of the quarter at the 2:44 mark. Then Tony Allen and Darius Miller joined in the three-point exhibition for the Pelicans, shrinking the Blazers’ advantage to 33-26 as the quarter concluded.
DeMarcus Cousins finally let his presence be felt on the offensive end in the early minutes of the second quarter. Portland’s second unit struggled as Boogie raced towards 16 points. Nurkic’s second quarter action abruptly ended after two fouls, which paved the way for Meyers Leonard. After being booed in Portland’s last outing, Leonard redeemed himself mightily, converting 3-of-4 from the field, giving the Blazers a 52-48 lead with three minutes remaining in the half. Then Moore and Rondo sank three-pointers in the final minute, switching the lead back to the Pelicans at halftime, 60-57.
New Orleans continued their hot shooting into the third quarter, helped by Portland’s slow-reacting defense. Opportune shooting by Dante Cunningham and more Cousins dominance built the Pelicans’ lead to 13 points at the 7:43 mark in the third. Confrontations between Leonard and Cousins led to some awkward trips to the free throw line, but Portland failed to find game-shifting momentum. New Orleans finished with a 38-point quarter and led 98-82.
Portland was nearly able to overcome their large fourth quarter deficit, outscoring New Orleans 34-25 in the final frame. A five-point explosion by Lillard in the final three minutes brought the Blazers within single digits, but they were unable to get out of their own way on the defensive end. Despite the belated urgency, the Pelicans coasted to a solid 123-116 road victory.
New Orleans shot an astonishing 48.4 percent from beyond the arc in this contest. Unlikely contributions from Dante Cunningham, Rajon Rando, and Tony Allen added five three-pointers, 15 points, to New Orleans’ final total of 123. That was unexpected.
The Blazers had no answer for the Pelicans’ dribble penetration for long stretches of this game. New Orleans aggressiveness also payed dividends at the free throw line, where they attempted 25 shots from the charity strip compared to Portland’s 11. This was not exactly unexpected, but certainly unwelcome.
Still, no matter how you slice it, the Blazers just lost at home to a team missing a major superstar. That’s not good.
- Meyers Leonard bounced back from the boos for a solid performance. He was able to score from all three levels, and led all bench players with 17 points. It was one heck of a redemption game for him. Seeing Leonard vs. Boogie is worth the price of admission alone.
- Shabazz Napier ended a string of bad games with a solid performance of his own off the bench. His outside shot wasn’t dialed in, but he made up for it with a perfect 6-for-6 night from the free throw line and 15 big points.
- Jusuf Nurkic’s foul trouble prohibited him from getting in rhythm. His third foul early in the second quarter laid the foundation for his paltry 8 points and 4 rebounds.
- Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have to shoot better than 19-for-47 from the field for the Blazers to have a chance when Nurkic isn’t impacting the game. McCollum was on his way to another horrific night before salvaging things by going 3-for-4 in the fourth quarter. He finished with 17 on 8-22 shooting. Lillard scored 29 on 11-25. The two combined for 5-17 shooting from the arc.
Our friends at The Bird Writes are probably still giddy about Boogies 38-point outburst.
The Blazers will look for redemption on Tuesday against the Washington Wizards.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com