Trail Blazers Waste Fast Start In Loss To Pelicans

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 13-10 overall and 7-6 at home this season with a 123-116 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in front of a crowd of 18,730 Saturday night at the Moda Center.

“Well, we didn’t finish the first quarter, we didn’t finish the second quarter, we didn’t start off the third quarter and that was pretty much the game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Between those three segments, they probably outscored us by 30, at least.”

Portland has now lost their last two games at home and two of their last three versus New Orleans at the Moda Center. The win breaks a three-game losing streak for the Pelicans.

It looked in the first quarter like the Trail Blazers might dispatch the Pelicans, playing Saturday night without All-Star power forward Anthony Davis (right pelvis), with relative ease. Portland used a 15-2 run, punctuated by back-to-back three-pointers from Damian Lillard, to take a 31-17 lead with 2:22 to play in the first quarter, giving many in attendance the impression that the Trail Blazers just might blow by a team playing on the second game of a back-to-back. But the Pelicans would make three three-pointers in the next two minutes to cut Portland’s lead to 33-26 going into the second quarter.

That scoring burst didn’t abate in the second quarter, with the Pelicans outscoring Portland between the end of the first and the start of the second to take a 33-30 lead. The Trail Blazers would end up getting outscored 34-24 in the second quarter and 43-26 after their first-quarter run to go down 60-57 by the intermission.

“I thought we had a good start to the first quarter, it was kind of flowing,” said Damian Lillard. “It was going smooth, it was an easy game at that point. And then they started to make a few shots and because of the shots we were getting offensively, we kind of counted on that and we let it become a back-and-forth game.”

It would get worse in the third quarter, with the Pelicans going on another run, this one of the 18-4 variety, to take a 76-63 lead. New Orleans would go up by as many as 19 before taking a 98-82 lead into the fourth and final quarter. Portland would do what they could to get back in the game, but never came close to getting enough stops to put much of a scare into the road team.

New Orleans finished the game shooting 52 percent from the field and 48 percent from three, and teams don’t tend to lose shooting that accurately, even on the road. The Pelicans also shot 25 free throws compared to just 11 for the Trail Blazers.

“New Orleans did a good job of shooting threes,” said Stotts. “First half, Tony Allen makes one and Rondo makes two and I think that got them pretty comfortable. I think they had 15 (threes) for the game, that was a big part of what they did tonight.”

Portland was led by Lillard, who went 11-of-25 from the field and 4-of-11 from three for 29 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds in 40 minutes.

Meyers Leonard, who was the topic of much conversation in Rip City over the last few days after being roundly booed in Portland’s loss to Milwaukee, had his best game of the season, going 7-of-9 from the field and 2-of-2 from three for 17 points to go with three assists and two rebounds in 16 minutes.

“I’m really happy for Meyers,” said Stotts. “Obviously everybody knows what happened last game with him, and for him to respond with a game like that was good for him and we certainly needed him. I thought he played a good defensive game as far as being physical. He was very vocal. It helps when you make shots.”

CJ McCollum scored 17 points on 8-of-22 shooting and Shabazz Napier added 15 points and seven assists off the bench.

Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 38 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes. E’Twaun Moore went a perfect 4-of-4 from three to finish with 19 points. Jrue Holiday added 17 points and seven assists.

Next up, the Trail Blazers have two days off before hosting the Wizards Tuesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.