Blazers Unable To Recover From Bad First Quarter In Charlotte

by Casey Holdahl
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CHARLOTTE -- After starting a two-game trip with a close win in San Antonio, the Trail Blazers were outplayed from start to finish in a 109-101 loss to the Charlotte Hornets Sunday night in front of a crowd of 3,880 at the Spectrum Center.

“It’s a disappointing loss, there’s no question,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Coming on the heels of San Antonio it’d have been nice to get back-to-back wins on the road, but Charlotte played well.”

The Trail Blazers are now 32-24 overall and 16-12 on the road this season. With the loss, the Blazers split the season series with the Hornets 1-1 and remain in sixth-place in the Western Conference standings with 16 games to play.

While two teams played in Charlotte Sunday night, it would be difficult to categorize it as much of a competition in the first quarter. Between Portland’s inability to stop the ball and their own accurate shooting, the Hornets made 10 of their first 11 attempts and would eventually go 10-of-12 in two-point shots while leading by as many as 25 points in the first quarter.

“They got off to a good start in transition, obviously they shot the three really well,” said Stotts. “We talked about getting off to good starts defensively in the first quarter and obviously we didn’t do that. Their transition kind of set the tone for the quarter and and then their three-point shooting set the tone the rest of the way.”

And from there, the game could mostly be explained as Portland nearly getting the lead under double digits, only to have the Hornets make a series of threes to push the score back to a comfortable advantage.

It would take until there was a little over four minutes to play in regulation before Portland, behind a scoring outburst from Carmelo Anthony, got the lead down to single digits for the first time since midway through the first quarter. But the Blazers would ultimately come at least a few shots and a few stops short of really putting a scare into a Hornets team playing without Gordon Hayward, Devonte Graham and LaMelo Ball.

“Those guys came out firing,” said Anthony. “They was locked in, they a scary team. They play freely, they play spaced out, young team. Those young guys, they out there playing with a lot of confidence and you saw that.”

Anthony led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, with 16 of those coming in the fourth quarter, on 8-of-19 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 shooting from three. CJ McCollum went 8-of-22 for 22 points to go with six rebounds, six assists and two steals in nearly 40 minutes.

Norman Powell finished with 17 points, three rebounds, 2 assists and two steals in 39 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter each contribute 12 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who got the start on the same day that he signed his second 10-day contract, added seven points, five rebounds and an assist in 21 minutes.

Terry Rozier led all scorers with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field and 7-of-13 shooting from three, 10 assists and eight rebounds in 39 minutes. P.J. Washington contributed 23 points off the bench and Miles Bridges finished with 19 points on 50 percent shooting.

The Trail Blazers now return home to Portland to host four-straight, all against teams in the hunt for the postseason. First up, the L.A. Clippers Tuesday night in the first game of a back-to-back.

“Tonight was a night that we allowed ourselves to get in a hole,” said Anthony. “They came out, jumped on us, up 20, we had to fight back. Tuesday will be different. We play the Clippers, different type of team, so we will prepare for the Clippers.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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