The Portland Trail Blazers are on the road for their final two games before All-Star festivities start up this weekend. They are in New Orleans tonight to take on Zion Williamson and tomorrow night in Memphis to take on Ja Morant. The Blazers are battling both teams for the final playoff spot in the West.
Jrue Holiday is also on the Pelicans and he’s been a notorious Blazer killer over the years.
Portland is opening up by attacking the Pelicans inside with Hassan Whiteside. He has scored on both Derrick Favors and Williamson early, add a Trevor Ariza three and the Blazers are off and running quickly in the first few minutes of the first quarter.
Carmelo Anthony hits a couple of mid-range jumpers and his shot might be coming back around. He’s been pretty cold the last few games. It’s good to see him get flowing in the offense early, that’s a good sign for the rest of the game.
Whiteside is on pace to get a double-double here in the first period. He’s eating Williamson and Favors like a King Cake after a hard night on Bourbon Street. It looks like an intentional move to get Whiteside the ball early to take some pressure off both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the perimeter.
Out of nowhere, the Blazers go on a 17-0 as soon as Gary Trent Jr. checks into the game. Dame only has three points so far, but he does have four assists, CJ hit a couple of threes, a few more points by Anthony. And you win the cash prize for the night if you guessed that Wenyen Gabriel would be the first Blazer to score off the bench.
Anfernee Simons is out of the concussion protocol and into the game tonight. He picks up a foul against J.J. Redick. He’s showing some good hustle out there tonight. He’s in passing lanes and making great passes on the offensive end. Caleb Swanigan is everywhere too. He’s getting big tip outs, rebounds, he’s making excellent switches and closeouts.
The amount of contact Lillard takes on drives is really starting to get to him. He’s getting beat up like Shaquille O’Neal in his prime on the way to the basket and the refs are swallowing the whistle. There is no reason that Damian Lillard shouldn’t be going to the line more than he does. Lillard draws more fouls shots on jumpers than he does from contact in the paint. That’s not how it works.
Despite that, the Blazers are up nine, 36-27 at the end of the first period. That was once again another strong first quarter by the Blazers.
Zion Williamson is the only member of the Pelicans that is doing much of anything in the second quarter. He has ten points in the first five minutes of the period, but the Blazers are using a combo of Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum, and Hassan Whiteside to keep the lead above ten points for the Blazers. Whiteside is in the middle of four Pelicans, including Zion, and somehow getting the ball.
With the Blazers doing so well with their bench in it allowed Dame to get about seven and a half minutes of game time rest before he checked into the game. He might have gotten more rest had the Pels not going on a 7-0 run.
The Blazers bench is not outscoring the Pelicans bench, but it feels like they are outplaying them.
And at the end of the second turned into a track meet. Lillard had four points, CJ with a three and the Pelicans were knocking down threes and have cut the Blazers down to two at the half, 65-63. The Blazers’ defense fell apart at the end of the half. They had zero answers for Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday.
I missed why Holiday started the third quarter shooting a technical foul shot. The Pelicans are out and running hard to start the third. Zion Williamson is doing things only he can do, Josh Hart knocks down a three and Terry Stotts is forced to call a timeout in the first four and a half minutes of the quarter.
The Pelicans picked up right where they left off in the second quarter. The Blazers are on their heels defensively and over-rotating. That is if they can even get into a defensive set. The Pelicans have eight fast-break points already in the quarter.
Damian Lillard does not have a three tonight. He has really been close. They have been hard bricks. He’s been attacking the basket more and getting more points in the paint tonight, but he’s not getting the calls that he should be getting.
Zion Williamson is abusing the entire Blazers’ front line in the quarter. He’s sealing off Hassan Whiteside, Trevor Ariza, and Carmelo Anthony and getting easy dunks. He’s got 20 points in the last 10 minutes he’s been on the court. This is the first time I’ve really had a chance to watch him this season, I’ve seen highlights and the dude is just a highlight. He’s as advertised.
And the wheels are coming off. Favors and Holiday both hit Dame in the head on a drive, of course there wasn’t a call. This leads to Lonzo Ball running over CJ and then Redick hitting a three. Pels push the lead up to up over 20 and outscore the Blazers 41-21 in the third and trail by 18 heading into the fourth quarter.
I wish I wasn’t sick so I could drink some wine.
Lillard and CJ each had 20 points, Anthony had 18, Whiteside had 17 and 14.
The Blazers take on the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow at 5 PM.