Pelicans defeat Blazers in McCollum’s return to Portland
It was the celebration of a job well done and of an appreciation for an outstanding player with class.
CJ McCollum returned to Portland for the first time since being traded to New Orleans and while McCollum has clearly embraced his new city and team, he was truly able to embrace his former city and team Wednesday night and the former embraced him in full as well.
While McCollum’s teammates watched a tribute to him during a break in the action, McCollum was busy talking with coach Willie Green, making sure his current team had its assignments correct in the midst of trailing early in the game.
That sums up McCollum’s work ethic.
As a player, the sum of the parts is obvious.
He is very good and he was very good Wednesday night as the Pelicans fought off pesky Portland 117-107 at Moda Center.
Playing with a host of players most people have never heard of, the Blazers took the fight to the Pelicans much of the night with the hustle and energy of a team bent on ruining McCollum’s return.
The Blazers led 36-32 after one quarter as the Pelicans struggled to guard.
Portland still led 54-51 at halftime but the Blazers, who got off to a hot start shooting the ball, came back to earth.
After the first quarter, the Blazers scored just 71 points.
New Orleans outscored Portland 34-28 in the third quarter to take a 85-82 lead going to the final quarter.
Portland pulled close on several occasions in the fourth quarter but New Orleans always had an answer.
Appropriately, McCollum led the Pelicans with 25 points.
Jonas Valanciunas was huge in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for his 49th double-double and his ninth straight. Valanciunas is second in the league in double-doubles, trailing only reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
Brandon Ingram also had 19 points with six rebounds and six assists and Jaxson Hayes was huge with 18 points. Trey Murphy III finished with 10 points off the bench.
New Orleans shot 51.3 percent from the field but the biggest statistic was 22 turnovers by the Blazers which the Pelicans converted into 26 points.
It was a very profitable night for the Pelicans as Memphis won 112-111 at San Antonio.
As a result, with six games remaining, the Pelicans (33-43) are now a game and a half up on the Lakers and two games up on the Spurs for the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings.
The four-game road trip continues with two games in Los Angeles, starting Friday night against the Lakers.
New Orleans can virtually put the pursuit of the Lakers to bed with another win.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…