Terry Stotts proves himself to be a defensive mastermind in Blazers win over the Pelicans, 101-93

by Kevin Nesgoda

Tuesday night was one of those games where you will always remember where you were when you watched the Portland Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard come back from 17 points in the final five minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans.

After the game Tuesday night this game could have gone in one of two ways; either a 140-119 butt-kicking or a defensive struggle throughout the night. In the modern NBA, the latter option seemed unlikely and that is what we ended up getting.

The Blazers led by Derrick Jones Jr. on the defensive end put the Pelicans away, 101-93, and swept the season series 3-0.

First Quarter Thoughts

The Pelicans are not messing around at all tonight. They are definitely the more active team to start. They have some great motion out top to free up Brandon Ingram for two open threes to start the game and giving NoLA a quick 8-2 lead. Lots of offensive rebounds, hands-on lots of loose balls. They were everywhere.

It had the feel that the Pels might just pull the rug out from under the Blazers and run away with this.

Damian Lillard had other ideas though.

Dame had 21 points on 7-8 shooting from the floor and 5-6 from three. He is still in that groove from Tuesday night. The Pelicans are laying off of him for some reason and then rushing at him off the switches. They even allowed Steven Adams to switch out on him a few times.

Lillard just hit a couple of threes over him like he wasn’t there.

Pretty sure the only thing Dame is seeing out there on the floor is the bottom of the basket.

The case for MVP is growing.

Second Quarter Thoughts

This is the second straight game that CJ McCollum comes out playing point guard to start the second quarter. This is so stupid on many different levels. The big one is that CJ has not had much game time and the Pelicans actually do a solid job of playing defense on point guards (not named Dame Lillard) physically without fouling. CJ is not ready for that.

The other point is that Anfernee Simons had been playing really well as of late. He had a ton of confidence coming out of the All-Star break. Simons didn’t see the court on Tuesday night and he should be seeing it tonight in some form.

You can’t let a young player down like that. There are other minutes that CJ can take, let’s not take the minutes away from Simons. He needs the time and the development still.

As I type this, 3J has shown back up and has led the Blazers to a 42-33 lead with a hair under nine minutes in the second quarter. McCollum had been 0-5 up until this point and his shots did not look close.

Enjoying the energy that we are seeing from Nassir Little tonight too. I love when he rebounds and runs. He has the skill to play point forward and does have an eye to be a playmaker, plus we all know that he might be the best finisher at the rim for the Blazers.

The Pelicans run some high hand-offs with Zion Williamson and the Blazers switch to a 2-3 zone off the hand-off. Zion Williamson scored 19 points on Tuesday night when the Blazers switched to a 2-3 — so why would defensive mastermind Terry Stotts do it again?

I’m not quite sure because I’m not defensive mastermind Terry Stotts.

🤷

Damian Lillard once again sits too long into the second quarter. When Damian Lillard is hot there is only one man who can slow him down and that is the defensive mastermind, Terry Stotts. There are a lot of coaches in the league that are terrible with their rotations, but if it wasn’t for guys like Luke Walton and Mike Budenholzer (plus a few others), Stotts would be right there.

Poor Derrick Jones Jr. got hit twice in the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Once got a flagrant foul called on Eric Bledsoe and the other was not called.

Lillard only had five points in the second quarter, but the Blazers took a 57-48 lead into the half.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Here come the Pelicans cutting into the Blazer lead to start the quarter. The typical start of the third quarter for the Blazers. They once again have come out like Stotts spent the half handing out Ambien, warm milk, and doing some ASMR therapy.

It might have happened to both teams as the Pelicans quickly leveled off after some really clutch defense from Derrick Jones Jr, Rodney Covington, and Gary Trent Jr. The momentum changed when DJJ blocked a dunk on the same possession by both Ingram and Williamson.

Jones has been really feeling his role with the Blazers lately. I thought it was a mistake early on in the season, but he’s been winning me over. Not sure if he holds the starting spot next year. That should be going to Little.

And Zion Williamson has decided to take over the game in the third. He began to attack the rim and get to the line. The Blazers did not have an answer for him. At the end of the quarter, Zion Williamson had one of the top five all-time explosive first steps I have ever seen. He was four feet past Covington before RoCo even reacted. If the Blazers were not collapsing the paint that would have been a highlight dunk for Williamson.

The Pelicans somehow turned that possession into a turnover. Speaking of which, the Blazers end the quarter with a 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. That does not bode well for how the game usually ends.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Zion Williamson is continuing his strong attacking play to start the fourth. He seems to be the only Pelican player trying at the moment. CJ McCollum took a charge from Zion and he follows that up with a three and then Carmelo Anthony knocks down a three and Portland is off on a 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter here.

Blazers are up by 14 and the Pelicans look all out of sorts at the moment. The Blazers defense is looking really strong against a bunch of guys waiting for a bunch of other guys to shoot the ball. Brandon Ingram has really disappeared in this second half.

The Pels are taking up a lot of clock to get a miss and the Blazers are taking up a lot of clock to get a make. That’s some smart play by the Blazers in the fourth quarter. We often don’t get to type those words about the Blazers in the second half of most games.

Gary Trent Jr. is in his own head right now. He reminds me of Arnold in that really crappy Batman movie. He’s ice cold and not very good. I’m a big fan of Trent Jr., but his play lately is going to make that contract extension a lot more palatable for the Blazers this summer.

And I might want to delete the above, Blazers have gone ice cold and have cut the Portland lead down to five. A combo of Lonzo Ball and Zion chipping away at that lead. This forces the Blazers into a timeout.

Out of the break the Blazers get back to back threes by Covington and Jones. Pushing the Blazer lead back up to nine points with just under two minutes to go.

Damian Lillard knocked down two free throws to seal the game up.

BOX SCORE

Next Up

Quick turn around with the Blazers taking on the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.

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