The Portland Trail Blazers dropped their ninth consecutive game on Thursday night, falling to the host New Orleans Pelicans by a final score of 127-94. For Portland, just two games remain before a difficult season comes to a merciful end. For the Pelicans, the win, along with a San Antonio Spurs loss, puts the them in solid position to host the impending Play-In Tournament matchup between the two squads.
The Blazers jumped out to a hot start, but struggled mightily after the first quarter. They were outscored 62-42 in the second half of the game. Drew Eubanks was a bright spot, continuing his stellar stretch of play with 20 points to lead the team in scoring—his 15th straight game in double-figures. CJ McCollum led the Pelicans with a game-high 23 points, to go along with seven assists.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key takeaways from Thursday night’s action.
Good Night to be CJ
McCollum, the former Blazer, followed up a quality performance in his return to Portland last week with another fine showing—this time in his new home arena. He scored 11 points in the first quarter to put the Pelicans in front, then put things in cruise control as the lead ballooned from there. His 23 points came on 9-19 shooting, including 5-10 from three-point land. Playing without fellow star Brandon Ingram—a late scratch due to a hamstring injury—he made sure he gave his team enough to win, but was able to rest on the bench for much of the second half, logging just 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, Portland’s remaining CJ, CJ Elleby, had perhaps his finest offensive performance of the season. He knocked down his first two threes, scoring 13 points in the first half to lead the Blazers. He didn’t have as many opportunities in the second half, but still finished with a career-high 17 points on 7-11 shooting, looking confident in the process.
The city of New Orleans is world-renowned for its beignets, but the Blazers brought a different pastry to the table on Thursday. Portland committed an unsightly 22 turnovers on the night, leading to 36 points for the Pelicans on the other end of the floor. In addition, the Blazers allowed an astonishing 23 offensive rebounds to the Pels, while recording just 27 total boards themselves. 6’7” rookie Herbert Jones and Willy Hernangomez had five each. Overall, New Orleans dominated the glass 49-27.
The Blazers out-shot the Pelicans both from the field and from beyond the arc, but the giveaways and second chance opportunities allowed the Pelicans 24 more field goal attempts on the night—the difference in the game. The Pels also had more than twice as many free-throw attempts—31 to 13.
Big Man Battle
The undersized Blazers have been without a true center since Jusuf Nurkic was shut down with a foot injury at the All-Star break. It showed against the Pelicans. In addition to the rebound disparity, the Pels dominated the paint offensively. Jonas Valanciunas set the tone, scoring 14 points on 5-11 shooting before foul trouble and the scoreboard limited him to just 22 minutes. Hernangomez, his backup, feasted for 17 points and 14 rebounds, bullying his way inside against Portland’s smaller front line, while also drawing a number of fouls.
Eubanks was 9-11 from the field, while backup Reggie Perry turned in a solid performance with 15 points on 7-10 shooting, but the duo simply lacked the size to reign in their Pelican counterparts on the defensive end of the floor.