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Blazers Swallowed by Pelicans in Brutal Finish

Portland squanders a 41-point effort from Damian Lillard, falling 121-110 thanks to a disastrous fourth quarter.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers entered Wednesday’s matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans less than 24 hours removed from their second-half collapse against the Golden State Warriors, and in desperate need of a win against another team in playoff contention. After a tight three quarters of action, the Blazers imploded in the fourth and final frame to fall 121-110 at Moda Center for their fourth loss in the last five games. Meanwhile, the Pelicans snapped a four-game losing streak of their own with the victory.

Damian Lillard led all scorers with 41 points, the tenth time he’s scored 40 or more since the calendar turned to January. Jerami Grant added 28 for the Blazers, his highest level of point production since January 2, when he dropped 38 against the lowly Detroit Pistons. Only two other Blazers finished in double-figure scoring.

Brandon Ingram carried the Pelicans with 40 points of his own, taking over down the stretch to secure the road victory. Former Blazer CJ McCollum added an all-around effort of 24 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.

Box Score

For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key takeaways from another tough loss.

Can’t Close the Door

The Blazers were in control of the game for much of the first three quarters of action. However, while at several points they appeared on the the verge of pulling away, the feisty Pelicans always had an answer—never falling behind by more than eight points. New Orleans survived the early body blows before unleashing an all-out attack in the fourth and final quarter, outscoring Portland 31-19 to close out the game.

It started on the defensive end of the floor. Rookie Dyson Daniels face-guarded Lillard on the opening possessions, and the Pelicans’ game plan was clear—deny Dame the ball at any cost and let the other Blazers try to beat them. It worked. Despite facing considerable pressure, Lillard still managed to score eight of Portland’s 19 points in the frame. Seven of the 11 non-Lillard points came in the final 1:13, with the game’s outcome already decided.

Offensively, McCollum took the scoring reigns in the first part of the frame, handing off the baton flawlessly to Ingram to finish the job. The lengthy Ingram gave Portland fits all night defensively, and was particular lethal in the mid-range. He hit just one three and only took three free throws, making them all.

Old Friends Square Off

Wednesday marked the first time that Lillard and McCollum faced each other on the floor, after years of manning the Portland backcourt together. Lillard clearly had the upper-hand in the individual matchup, but McCollum stepped up when it counted. He scored or assisted on 11 of the first 13 Pelican points of the fourth quarter—helping them jump out to a two-possession lead after trailing for much of the night.

Lillard once again carried the Blazers offensively, going 12-22 from the field and 15-16 from the line. However, he was just 2-9 from three and committed a team-high four turnovers, and failed to record an assist for just the fifth time in his professional career. It’s tough to nitpick with the way he’s been playing, but with so much of the offensive burden on his shoulders, anything short of greatness is going to be magnified, fair or not.

Matisse the Menace

Lillard will get the headlines for yet another 40-point effort, but the recently-acquired Matisse Thybulle had a terrific all-around effort for the home team—particularly in the first half. Thybulle played a huge role in Portland’s early success. Known as a defensive stopper, he was equally effective on the other end of the floor, albeit in a complimentary role. The 6’5” Thybulle had an incredible four blocks in the first half alone, and scored 12 points (hitting a pair of threes), grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists for the game. It was a tremendous performance that will unfortunately be overshadowed by the loss.

Ant Returns, Hurt Again

Anfernee Simons was a late addition to the starting lineup after a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. It was a rough night that ended on about the worst note possible. After going 2-9 from the field over 20 minutes, he re-aggravated the injury late in the third quarter and did not return to the game. No immediate update has been made on his availability going forward, although it seems unlikely he’ll be available for the team’s next game, according to The Athletic’s Jason Quick.

Up Next

The Blazers (29-33) embark on a seven-game road trip starting Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. PT from Philips Arena in the ATL.