The Portland Trail Blazers hung around for much of the night, before the New Orleans Pelicans pulled away down the stretch to take home a 117-107 victory on Wednesday evening at Moda Center. The game marked the return to Portland for CJ McCollum, traded to the Pelicans last month after spending the first eight and-a-half seasons of his career in a Blazer uniform. He led all scorers in the game with 25 points, 14 of which came in the first quarter.
For the Blazers, the loss marked their fifth in a row, and ninth out of the last ten games. Drew Eubanks had a tremendous night, dropping 21 points on an impressive 10-12 shooting display, while also pulling down nine rebounds. Ben McLemore added 16 points off the bench for Portland.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key storylines from Wednesday’s action.
McCollum received a rousing ovation from the Rip City faithful upon being announced in the starting lineup. He then proceeded to bury his first five shots from the field as part of a 14-point first quarter. He wasn’t able to maintain the scoring blitz throughout the game, thanks in part to Portland’s pesky defensive effort. However, he still finished with a game-high 25 points on an efficient 9-16 shooting performance, including 3-6 from distance.
Former Blazer Larry Nance Jr. also made his return to Portland, where he played 37 games before being including in the McCollum deal. He scored eight points and pulled down four rebounds in 22 minutes off the Pelicans bench. Tony Snell, the other piece New Orleans received in the deal, was active but registered a DNP-Coach’s Decision.
In a closely contested game, the Pelicans relied on their veterans down the stretch against the largely inexperienced Blazers. Jonas Valanciunas was particularly effective in the final frame, using his imposing 6’11”, 265-pound frame to bully the undersized Blazer big men in the paint. In addition, New Orleans finally connected on timely three-pointers after struggling mightily from distance throughout the night. Rookie Trey Murphy III connected on a pair of long balls, while McCollum hit a late dagger to stretch the lead to double-digits in the final minutes.
For the Blazers, a 36-point 1st quarter in which they went 7-11 from three proved to be a mirage, as they were just 7-31 from deep the rest of the way—and 2-8 in the fourth quarter. Turnovers also contributed to their undoing, as they committed an unsightly 20 on the game. This allowed a number of fastbreak opportunities for the Pelicans, helping them overcome their own struggles from distance with easy looks in the open court.
Reggie Perry, who appeared in two games for the Blazers during their COVID-outbreak in December, played for the first time since inking a new 10-day deal on Monday. Backing up Eubanks at center, Perry turned in a solid performance with 15 points and six rebounds over 17 minutes, going 6-11 from the field. Most of his damage came at the rim, but he did knock down a jumper from the top of the key in the fourth quarter.
Didi Louzada made his Blazer debut against his former team, having recovered from a torn meniscus injury suffered in January. In just his sixth career game, the native Brazilian had five points over 12 minutes, shooting 2-6 from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arc.
The Blazers hit the road to face the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. PT from the AT&T Center. They’ll play the Spurs again on Sunday.