Blazers Handle Hornets in Portland

Charlotte Gives Up 70 1st-Half Points in Loss
by Sam Perley

By Matt Rochinski

For the second-straight game, an opponent’s offensive outburst cost the Hornets on their six-game West Coast trip as they fell 127-96 in Portland.

Three nights ago, a 42-point fourth quarter cost Charlotte in a 128-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. On Friday, it was a 70-point first half from the Trail Blazers that left the Hornets reeling as they passed the midway point of the trip. Charlotte now stands at 19-22 overall and sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race at the midway point of the season.

“From the start, we just did not come out to compete tonight,” Hornets Head Coach James Borrego said. “Lack of effort. Lack of competitive spirit. Soft on the ball. Too soft inside. Just a lake of spirit tonight.”

Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 18 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field, including 4-of-9 from long range to go with three rebounds, three assists and one steal. Jeremy Lamb followed Walker with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed five boards.

Charlotte started the game on fire from long range, connecting on 5-of-7 three-pointers and scoring 27 points in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Hornets, they could not find a defensive answer for the Blazers All-Star tandem CJ McCollum (16) and Damian Lilliard (12), who combined to outscore Charlotte 28-27 in the first frame. Behind their backcourt duo’s performance, Portland lit up the scoreboard for a total of 37 points to build a 10-point lead heading to the second quarter on its home court.

With the Blazers entire starting lineup resting to start the second quarter, the Hornets appeared to take advantage, getting a Malik Monk three from the right side and a Tony Parker drive with the and-one to trim Portland’s lead to 37-33 just 43 seconds into the quarter.

That’s when the Blazers reserves picked up where McCollum and Lillard left off, rattling off an 18-3 run to build a 55-36 lead at the 6:44 mark. By the time Portland’s starting lineup returned, their bench had outscored Charlotte 22-8 over a span of 4:30 to put the Blazers up 59-41. Portland didn’t let up when its starters returned, getting five more from McCollum and two from Lillard as they took a 70-49 lead and put the game out of reach at halftime.

Portland finished the game holding nearly every statistical advantage, including a franchise-best 16 blocked shots for the Blazers. Portland outshot the Hornets 55.9 percent to 40.0 percent from the field, 88.9 percent to 68.8 percent from the charity stripe, outrebounded them 47-43, handed out 31 assists to Charlotte’s 23 and swiped 10 steals to the Hornets three. Charlotte also gave up 26 fastbreak points while scoring 10 of its own. The Hornets lone advantage came from outside the arc, whey they outshot the Blazers 43.3 percent to 37.5 percent.

“It’s my job to look at the roster and the lineup and make the right adjustments,” said Borrego. “It’s up to our guys to come with the spirit to compete every night. This is our job. We have to come to compete from the start and play for 48 minutes.”

McCollum tallied a game-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting (60.0 percent) and Lillard added 20 on 8-of-16 shots (50.0 percent).

Charlotte faces a quick turnaround as they’ll take on the Kings at 10 p.m. on Saturday in Sacramento.

“This loss should fuel us for tomorrow night,” said Borrego. “If we don’t come back with a new spirit - a competitive spirit out there - we’ll se the same result. I expect our guys to bounce back and be resilient. I think we’ve been resilient this year. This was not an example of that. I expect that to change tomorrow.”