Lillard scores 50, Blazers rally past Pelicans 125-124

Sports

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, left, drives as New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had 50 points and 10 assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers came from behind to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 125-124 on Tuesday night.

Lillard, who finished with six 3-pointers, made two clutch free throws with 1.2 seconds left for the win after Portland trailed New Orleans by as many as 17 points. Brandon Ingram had 30 points and Zion Williamson added 28 for the Pelicans. Lonzo Ball had 11 points and a season-high 17 assists.

Analysis

  1. CJ McCollum’s return

Before he went down with an injury, Mccollum was playing arguably the best basketball of his career. After missing an extended period of time, Mccollum came back into the Blazers starting line up.Though he wasn’t as smooth as he was before the injury, he still showed signs that once he knocks the rust off, he will go back to being the playmaker the Blazers need. 

  1. Too many extra passes

This has been an area of the Blazers game I am starting to see more and more of as the season goes on. When the Blazers are moving the ball around and driving into the lane and kicking it out to a shooter, it seems like they almost force the ball movement a little more than they should. Against the Pelicans tonight, there were numerous times where a player would drive into the lane and have the lay up, but would anticipate a little too much that the defender would be there and pass away a great shot for a good shot. 

  1. Blazers had no answer for Zion 

With so many injuries to the Blazers line up, bodies are stretched thin. On top of the lack of depth for the Blazers, I just do not think they match up well with the Pelicans. Between All-Star Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the Blazers had their hands full. In this game they had a very hard time guarding Zion because well, the Blazers dont have anyone who is big enough. Zion is too explosive to be guarded by a center like Kanter, but also too big and strong to be guarded by someone like Derrick Jones Junior or Robert Covengtion. He proved to be too much for the Blazer in this one scoring 22 points and getting any shot he wanted against the Blazers defense.

  1. Poor defensive effort

In the game against the Pelicans, we saw much of the same defensively that we are used to seeing when it comes to the Blazers. Guys seem to be out of position, lack communication, and have a lack of effort. There are certainly times where the Blazers find a rhythm on the defense side of the floor, but it is just far too inconsistent. If the Blazers cannot find a way to improve their defense, they are going to see teams continuing to shoot the lights out against them. 

  1. Second chance points 

The Blazers were absolutely dominated in the second chance points against the Pelicans. In the game, the Blazers had zero second chance points compared to the Pelicans 15. Obviously you cannot predict where the ball is going to bounce on after a shot, but I think this area of the games is a pure effort and heart stat. In this match up, the Pelicans just showed more toughness, grit, and effort than the Blazers did when there was a missed shot and the ball was up for grabs.  It also showed the Pelicans did a better job boxing out and owning the boards than the Blazers did. 

6.  Lillards late game heroics were just enough

When the fourth quarter comes around, opposing teams know who the ball is going to and who is going to make the big play for the Blazers. Even though they know Lillard is going to get the ball, teams still cannot find a way to slow down. After all hope seemed to be lost for the Blazers heading into the fourth quarter, Lillard exploded for 50 points and hit two clutch free throws down the stretch with just one second left to give the Blazers the one point lead which ultimately gave the Blazers the 125-124 win over the Pelicans. 

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