The Portland Trail Blazers entered their Thursday night contest with the New Orleans Pelicans in a tailspin, diving towards the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery, having lost approximately 95% of their games over the last month. This outing would not buck the trend. Portland turned the ball over 22 times, got outscored on the break 25-9, and gave up 33 second chance points to the Pelicans. That cost them the game even before CJ McCollum humbled his former team with a game-high 23 points. The final score read 127-94, but the contest was over long before that.
Trail Blazers center Drew Eubanks led his team with 20 on 9-11 shooting.
The Blazers employed a devastating attack of Drew Eubanks in the lane and CJ Elleby beyond the arc to post 15 quick points on the Pelicans. Eubanks had 6 points on three inside-ish attempts; Elleby matched him with threes. The Blazers would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that pesky CJ McCollum, who hit a pair of threes himself, plus a jumper. keeping the two teams even.
Then Eubanks REALLY started scoring. He took the ball off the dribble, tossing in running hook shots, the likes of which nobody has seen for decades. The Pelicans said, “Buh buh WHAT?!?” as Drew the Destroyer ripped them to shreds.
New Orleans countered with height on the other end, using Jonas Valanciunas to hammer the shorter Eubanks. But open threes against a Pelicans defense suddenly focused inside kept the Blazers alive and kicking, despite even more scoring from McCollum.
The Pelicans rattled off a 12-3 run as the quarter closed, giving themselves a comparatively-large edge of 5 points. New Orleans led 33-28 amid a high-octane rush of scoring for both sides. McCollum had 11 points in the first, Eubanks 10.
Portland devolved into isolation-laden, halfcourt ball at the start of the second. Predictably, they got squashed. The Pelicans forced laughably-easy turnovers, streaked to the other end to score, then watched the Blazers treat each ensuing possession like Differential Calculus.
The only thing that saved the Blazers from epic disaster was Elleby, who had it stuck on automatic. When they didn’t turn over the ball, Portland actually got quality shots from their shooting guard. Unfortunately, he was overmatched on defense and committed his third foul before the quarter was 5 minutes old.
As the clock wound past the 7:00 mark, New Orleans was 8-12 from the field in the period. The Blazers hadn’t even attempted 8 shots, thanks to the wheelbarrow full of turnovers debited to their account. Thanks to miscues, the Pels’ lead vaulted into double digits without their starters on the floor.
Eubanks tried to come to the rescue once again, as the Blazers got more deliberate in their offense. But that just left them the same problems, adding the shot clock as a new enemy. Under these conditions, Eubanks couldn’t score against an aggressive New Orleans defense any more than his teammates had. The Pelicans kept forcing turnovers, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and running out. When they missed, they scooped up offensive rebounds like gobstoppers in Willy Wonka’s factory.
The period hung in the balance at the 3:00 mark, with the Pelicans up 15. The lead was either going back to 10 or into the stratosphere. Portland picked up the defense, settled down a little on offense, and calmed the storm. A couple of whistles on shots that otherwise weren’t falling helped. Portland got it down to 12. then the Pels rebounded slightly. New Orleans led 65-52 at intermission.
The Blazers needed a big push at the start of the third to try and equalize the scoreboard. Instead... hmmmm... they committed more turnovers. Within three minutes, the lead was up to 19. Eubanks started scoring again, but it was like spitting upwards into a raincloud.
When they weren’t forcing turnovers, the Pelicans continued to dominate the offensive glass. The Blazers watched helplessly as their defense (or what passed for it) forced misses that ended up translating into extra opportunities for the opponent.
Losing the in-between aspects of the game by a landslide blunted the effect of Portland’s 50% shooting in the third. They hit shots, just not enough of them. They stopped New Orleans occasionally, but never for a sustained run.
Turnovers took center stage once again at the end of the third. By this time, it was just comical. New Orleans passed the dreaded 100-point mark before the period expired, leading 101-76 at the end of three.
The only mystery remaining in the fourth quarter was whether Drew Eubanks would earn a career high. Head Coach Chauncey Billups opted not to play him. So there you go. Ballgame.
Stay tuned for analysis from the evening, coming soon!
The Blazers travel to Dallas to face the Mavericks tomorrow night at 5:30 PM, Pacific.