ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 16 points in his first game back from a collapsed lung, Jusuf Nurkic added 21 points and a season-best 22 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Orlando Magic 98-88 Monday night.
McCollum missed 17 games over six weeks after being injured Dec. 4. The ninth-year pro started Monday but played on a minutes restriction. He made 7 of 13 shots and 2 of 4 3-pointers in 28 minutes.
“I felt good because I had worked on my game,” said McCollum, who was present for the birth of his first child while he was away from basketball. “I worked extremely hard over the last two weeks to recondition, build my body back and getting up shots. And I think you can tell.”
Even though he missed more than a month of game action, McCollum stayed in close contact with the team and regularly called and texted with Billups. The first-year head coach said the guard has been extraordinarily eager to get back on the floor following his lengthy absence.
CJ 🤝 Nurk @Moda_Health | Assist of the Game pic.twitter.com/74VpCESQXo
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 18, 2022
“It’s not just good to have him back on the floor; it’s good to have him back around the locker room and around the guys because he’s one of our leaders and he gives us life,” Billups said.
Portland beat the Magic for a 10th straight time dating to Jan. 13, 2017. The Blazers have won four of five games overall and are 4-14 on the road. The Blazers won their second straight road game after ending a nine-game road skid Saturday in Washington.
“I thought we played well and a few of the things that we focused on trying to take away, we did a good job,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “It was good to have CJ back. He didn’t force anything. He was right back like he never left.”
Ben McLemore added 14 points and four 3-pointers for the Blazers. Nurkic registered his team-best 18th double-double and finished one rebound shy of tying a career high.
McCollum scored Portland’s first and last baskets of the first half and the Blazers led 54-40 at the break.