So, your NBA team, heretofore mired in mediocrity, just earned an exciting—you hope season-turning—road win against a conference rival, the San Antonio Spurs. How do you follow it up? If you said, “Jump on the next opponent, pound them early, and leave no doubt you intend to start a significant winning streak,” you may be a contender. If your answer was, “Play a lazy, gaffe-filled, barf-inducing swill-fest of a game, giving the win right back in the most demoralizing way possible,” you might be the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland didn’t just fall to the Charlotte Hornets tonight, they cannonballed into a sea of suckiness. All-NBA guard Damian Lillard missed his second straight start due to a hamstring issue, but the Hornets were also missing significant players: Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, Devonte Graham, Malik Monk... four of their top five players were in street clothes.
And yet somehow they destroyed the Blazers, going up 20 in the first period and cruising downhill against a team whose only seeming talent lay in drawing foul shots, then missing them. Charlotte finished with the 109-101 win. Terry Rozier scored 34 with 10 assists while CJ McCollum put up 22 for the Blazers. Carmelo Anthony added 24 off the bench in a huge, but futile, attempt at a fourth-quarter comeback.
Anthony passed Tim Hardaway and Eddie Jones for 34 on the all-time three-pointers made list, hitting 6 of 12.
Derrick Jones, Jr. did not play in this game with a DNP-CD
The Hornets weren’t just a headache for the Blazers in the first quarter, they were a full-blown migraine. Portland’s interior defense played hooky. Everybody in Charlotte’s uniform except Terry Rozier took turns running a layup drill. Rozier didn’t participate because he was too busy hitting jumpers, including a couple threes. He also amassed a half-dozen assists. It was one of the worst defensive efforts we’ve seen in a season full of them. CJ McCollum hit a couple shots, but that was all the Blazers could muster. When Rozier hit his third three with 2:34 remaining in the period, the Hornets were up 20. And then he hit ANOTHER one, making him 4-4 from distance in the quarter. Rozier finished the period with 17 points and 6 assists on 7-8 shooting. Charlotte led 44-24 after one.
The second quarter wasn’t quite as miserable for Portland as the first. That meant they didn’t fall back by 40. But they didn’t make much headway either. Charlotte missed open shots, but rebounded plenty of them. With the big scoreboard gap, the refs were being charitable to the Blazers, giving them the edge in free throws. Unfortunately the Blazers squandered it by shooting 50% from the foul line. McCollum and Norman Powell went on mini-flurries, but it wasn’t near enough. Charlotte led 65-51 at the half.
The Blazers made a brief run early in the third, getting the lead down to a dozen, but they couldn’t score anywhere but the foul line, and there barely. After 9 minutes of play elapsed in the third, the Blazers had hit four shots total. In that same span, the Hornets hit six threes, plus assorted other shots. Portland’s defense wasn’t just absent, it was inverted. Before you could say, “Please stop hurting us!” Portland was down 25 again. Charlotte led 93-72 after three.
Carmelo Anthony triggered the obligatory fourth-quarter blowout comeback, hitting a trio of triples in the first six minutes of the frame. That took Charlotte’s lead down to a dozen. He’d score 11 straight Portland points, but the debt was too big to repay. When ‘Melo started rushing shots and missing (and he took some ugly ones) the game was, somewhat mercifully, over.
Stay with us for Kyle Garcia’s analysis of the game!
The Blazers return home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM, Pacific.