McCollum Returns, Lillard Shines, and Portland Walks by New Orleans

Hello Blazer fans, Antonio here. As I sit on my couch reveling in the Oregon State Beavers first tournament win since 1980, I realized just how much that game vs. Tennessee felt like yesterday’s Blazer game. Both the Blazers and the Beavers took an early lead, played good defense, and held on for a tough win.

That was the Blazers’ game last night. Their first game against the Pelicans was a mess for 42 minutes of gametime until Damian Lillard decided that enough was enough. There are two very different games that both resulted in Portland wins to dissect. Let’s take a deeper look.

Game 1: CJ Returns, Dame Show Up

CJ McCollum came back to the starting lineup, and boy did the Blazers need it. I’ll take a 3-15 night from McCollum over Gary Trent starting any day. Nothing against Gary, but the Pelicans had to pay respects to CJ no matter what. Despite eight quick points, McCollum only finished with 10 points on the night.

Besides CJ’s return, the Blazers played rough. The offense was inconsistent, the defense giving up open threes galore. With 5:56 left to go in the game, POrtland was trailing 117-100 and looked dead. 

Then, Dame.

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Dame Time went nuclear tonight⌚️ 50 PTS⌚️ 10 AST⌚️ 13/20 FG⌚️ 6/13 3PT⌚️ 18/18 FT⌚️ 17-point comeback win

Damian Lillard saved the Blazers on Tuesday night. No way around it. HIs 50 points made sure the team was even close. No Blazer scored more than 13 points besides him. The MVP candidate hit shots, made passes and played lockdown D, sinking two clutch free throws to win the game. What a player

Game 2: Defense?

Lillard picked up right where he left off, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. The Pelicans countered in the second quarter by aggressively trapping him on every turn. Lillard would only score 15 points the rest of the night. So how did the Blazers stay one step ahead of New Orleans?

Defense. After scoring 124 points in the first game, the Pelicans were held to 93 points in the second. Expelling so much energy by guarding Dame will do that to a team, but the Blazers defended budding star Zion Williamson much better than earlier. Terry Stottsused zone matchups mixed with man, and the team seemed much more coherent.

As I stated earlier, this game felt a lot like the Beavers win over Oklahoma State. The Blazers seemed comfortable, never letting the Pelicans get too close, and walked away with the eight point win. 

Two games against the Pelicans, two wins. Nothing more that you can ask for. Once the Blazers play their next two matchups against the Mavericks, we will be able to see how the team is meshing with the return of CJ.

Next Up: Another back-to-back matchup, this time against the Mavericks on Friday and Sunday.

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