Blazers losing streak extends to five games after 115-89 loss to Pelicans
Wednesday’s result, like all of the others on this road trip, had a feeling of inevitability from the opening tip. The Blazers lost their fifth straight game to wrap up a winless road trip, 115-89 at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. At five games, its Portland’s second-longest losing streak of the season. The loss was Portland’s worst of the season.
Anthony Davis had 28 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks to lead the Pelicans. Tyreke Evans worked his way into the paint all night for a 24-point, nine assist, eight rebound performance.
CJ McCollum had 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds on 8-for-21 shooting in his return from bilateral ankle sprains. His return provided the Blazers with a boost, but the Blazers needed much more than McCollum’s creation to pull out a win against a Pelicans team that urgently needs to turn things around.
The Blazers got off to a promising start against the Pelicans. Even though McCollum provided a nice boost with seven early points, the Blazers didn’t have enough to stick with the Pelicans for the long haul. Their defense helped them hang around, especially when they struggled to score in the second quarter. But their dearth of talent without Lillard became too much for effort to make up for.
Mason Plumlee made some nice plays early on, but once the Pelicans realized that he doesn’t have a jumper and isn’t an especially good creator for himself, the well dried up. He was still active on the glass and had a good game, but a reliable shot creator for an entire offense, he is not. He was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers in this game. Plumlee finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
The Pelicans closed the first half on a 17-2 run, which basically put the game away.
Every Blazers possession became laborious, which is a pretty impressive feat against the Pelicans who have the 30th ranked defensive rating in the league. They made a team with very little cohesion to speak of look like an experienced team of veterans. Yes, in a way, the Pelicans are that. But the experience of their players surrounding Anthony Davis has done little to help them play defense this season.
The run that the Blazers were waiting for never came in the second half. The Pelicans continued their run of dominance. The Blazers played better offensively near the end of the third quarter and actually outscored the Pelicans in the third stanza. Meyers Leonard hit some shots in the second half and things didn’t look so bleak.
The Blazers surprised some people earlier on in the season with wins against good teams and a scrappiness that kept them in every game. Injuries and the unforgivable nature of the NBA schedule are now having their way with the Blazers, who are not built to be successful throughout a grueling NBA season.
Leonard’s shot-making was nice to see, but his lack of confidence in run of the mill situations remains a concern. He had 15 points and five rebounds but hesitation continues to be Leonard’s biggest problem. On a possession in the first half, Leonard caught the ball at the 3-point line with Jrue Holiday closing out on him. Leonard turned down a look that most any NBA player would consider open and a look that would be wide-open by his standards with Holiday making the close out, who is eight inches shorter than Leonard. Leonard’s passivity ended in a contested midrange jumper from Allen Crabbe.
Thanks to Leonard hitting some shots, the Blazers got within 14 early in the fourth quarter. But after that the Pelicans starters kicked it into high gear to wrap up a win that they needed to have.
- After a 12-point explosion in the second quarter of Monday’s loss to the Hawks, Moe Harkless went back into witness protection. He had 0 points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist in 11 minutes.
- This game was tough for the Blazers offensively. And most nights that the Blazers have trouble scoring, they turn to Gerald Henderson to try and make things happen. Hendo had a nice outing of 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Nights he can give the Blazers something near double-digits off the bench are a wonderful plus. Expecting him to come in and score 20 is not a reasonable expectation. He can help, but not much.
- Noah Vonleh played 21 minutes, getting a little extended run in garbage time. He finished with six points and six rebounds. He makes mistakes, but I’m starting to wonder whether we shouldn’t see a little more of young Noah beyond the 15 minutes a game he’s been getting consistently.
- Ed Davis had 12 rebounds and was a beast on the boards as always. His finishes weren’t there tonight as he was 1-for-9 from the field.
- The Blazers take on the Cavaliers on Dec. 26 back home at the Moda Center. They’re expected to have Lillard back, which is the only thing that matters in terms of them having a chance on a nightly basis. But as of right now, even that is up in the air. Lillard’s foot and the Blazers could use a little time away. But after the holidays, the Blazers have to get back to the slog of the season against one of the league’s best teams.