Late-Game Rally Falls Short in Game 1 Loss to Pelicans

Lillard and McCollum Score 34 Second-Half Points

PORTLAND – The Pelicans halted Portland’s furious fourth-quarter comeback just before it was too late in taking a 1-0 lead in the First Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs with a 97-95 win in front of 19,882 (sellout) at Moda Center. Down by 19 points with fewer than four minutes left in the third period, the Trail Blazers narrowed the deficit to just one point in the final minutes.

The Pelicans led, 88-75, with just 5:08 remaining before the Trail Blazers used a 10-0 to get back into the game with still 2:47 on the clock. CJ McCollum’s 3-pointer with 59.9 seconds remaining made it a one-point game, 93-92, but four Anthony Davis free throws later and New Orleans was on its way to a series-opening win.

“We struggled in the first half. We had 36 points in the first half, and I think we had 59 in the second half, so I thought our offense came around in the second half,” said Head Coach Terry Stotts. “The first half was a struggle, and the second half we were able to create some offense,” he added.

The second-leading backcourt in the NBA this season couldn’t find a rhythm early enough Saturday night. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum sparked Portland’s comeback with 34 of their combined 37 points coming after halftime, but it wasn’t quite enough to put the Trail Blazers over the top. McCollum led Portland with 19 points, followed by Lillard’s 18 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists.

“I thought we just didn’t make shots. Give credit to what they did defensively. They were physical, and they were up a trapping a lot of my pick-and-rolls,” said Lillard. “I think it just comes down to the way we shot. We did get a fair amount of good looks – we just didn’t knock them down.”

Anthony Davis led all players with 35 points (14-26 FG), 14 rebounds and four blocks. Jrue Holiday added 21 points, while Rajon Rondo dished 17 assists to add to six points and eight rebounds.

“Obviously, he’s (Anthony Davis) an All-NBA player for a reason, and they know how to get him in his spots, get him good looks, and they play to his strengths,” said Ed Davis.

Over the course of the season, New Orleans was the third-highest scoring team (111.7) in the NBA while allowing the second-most points (110.4) of any team. Through two quarters Saturday, it looked as if those stats should have been flipped as the Pelicans held the Trail Blazers to just 36 points and 31.9% shooting before halftime.

“I shot the ball the same way, had the same looks, tried to be aggressive, tried to get downhill, take advantage,” McCollum said about the tale of two halves. “It’s just an unfortunate first half.”

TOP SCORERS
• Lillard passed Buck Williams for seventh on Portland’s all-time playoff scoring list with 780 points. He is just five points away from Kevin Duckworth for sixth place.
• Evan Turner scored nine (4-7 FG) of his 13 points in the first quarter to lead all Trail Blazers.
• Anthony Davis has scored at least 25 points in all five of his career playoff games.

NOTABLE
• Portland’s bench scored 18 points in the first half compared to just eight points by Pelicans reserves. Four Trail Blazers made two field goals off the bench in the first half. In total, Portland carried a 27-15 advantage off the bench.
• Jusuf Nurkic recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in his second career playoff game.
• Ed Davis grabbed a playoff career-high and team-high 13 rebounds (five offensive).
• Portland outscored New Orleans on the fastbreak, 29-17.
• Rajon Rondo matched a New Orleans playoff franchise record with 17 assists (Chris Paul). He passed out nine assists in the first half without scoring a point.
• Nikola Mirotic (16 points, 11 rebounds) notched his first career playoff double-double.

QUOTABLE
“We can’t let tonight’s loss go into the next game, and we’ve got to tighten up, come back sharper and take care of homecourt next game.”

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NEXT UP
Portland and New Orleans return to Moda Center on Tuesday for Game 2 of this best-of-seven series in the First Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Tipoff is again scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and TNT, with the radio call on NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 AM.