Nothing Comes Easy During Loss In New Orleans

by Casey Holdahl
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NEW ORLEANS -- After Sunday night's victory versus the Suns in Phoenix, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said point guard Damian Lillard "willed us to the win." The 6-3 point guard in his fifth season out of Weber State tried to do the same thing Tuesday night in New Orleans, though there's only so much one will can do.

Lillard finished with 29 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but only one other Trail Blazer managed to score in double figures (and in garbage time at that) as Portland fell 100-77 to the New Orleans Pelicans in front of a crowd of 15,530 Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.

“Well that was a tough one," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Our offense never really got on track. The first quarter we didn’t shoot the ball well. I thought we were loose with the ball even though we only had two turnovers, but the turnovers caught up with us in the second quarter. We just could never really get on track offensively."

Portland's 77 points is their lowest point total this season.

The loss drops the Trail Blazers to 29-37 overall and 12-23 on the road this season. Portland is now 3 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 16 games to play. With the win the Pelicans now lead the season series 2-1 with the final game to be played in Portland's regular season finale April 12 at the Moda Center.

It was obvious about midway through the first quarter of Tuesday game that the Trail Blazers were going to be in for a rough night at Smoothie King, though an almost equally sluggish start by the Pelicans blunted the initial impact of an incredibly off night shooting. Even though Portland would shoot just 20 percent from the field in the first quarter, they managed to enter the second quarter trailing 23-16, a relatively manageable margin.

But that wouldn't last for long. First it was three-straight Portland turnovers leading to an 8-0 run to give the Pelicans their first double-digit lead of the night at 39-28. The Trail Blazers would follow that up by going scoreless for over four minutes, paving the way for an 11-0 New Orleans run that effectively blew the game open before the half.

Lillard would do what he could to stem the tide in the third, scoring 11-straight in the first five minutes of the third quarter to cut the Pelicans' lead to 60-49. But with scoring coming from just one player, the Pelicans were able to push their lead to 77-54 by the start of the fourth.

"It got back up to 20 and I was like 'Man, we cut it all the way down to 11 and we could have got it to five or seven then maybe they start playing a little bit tighter,'" said Lillard. "Then you got a game. But it went the opposite direction."

Stotts would wave the white flag midway through the fourth with Portland trailing by as many as 28 and a game versus the Spurs in San Antonio looming in less than 24 hours.

Outside of Lillard, Shabazz Napier, with 10 points, was the only other Trail Blazer to finish in double figures. Portland shot 30 percent from the field, the ill effects of which were exacerbated by turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 22 points for the Pelicans.

“We had good looks, we didn’t make shots, we turned the ball over, mainly myself” said Lillard. “I had a lot of turnovers early. It just seemed like we could never get right on that end of the floor. We didn’t move the ball, we didn’t cut and screen the way we have been. We just weren’t very productive on that end of the floor and it’s tough to win a game when you don’t play well offensively and the other team is making shots.”

New Orleans was led by DeMarcus Cousins, who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds three assists and three steals in 30 minutes. Anthony Davis, who left the game with a sprained left ankle in the first half before returning in the second, put up a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes. E'Twaun Moore and Tim Frazier combined to scored 23 points off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers return to Texas to face the Spurs in the second game of a back-to-back at the AT&T Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 pm.