CJ McCollum scores 23 points, Pelicans beat Blazers 127-94

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 23 points in 29 minutes against his former team and the New Orleans Pelicans came closer to a 127-94 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

Jonas Valanciunas, returning from a sore right ankle, scored 14 points in 21 minutes for the Pelicans, who were without leading scorer Brandon Ingram (right hamstring) but finished without a starter on the floor. for 30 minutes against a wobbly Blazers team that had a patchwork lineup and lost its ninth straight.

“Our bank was great. They brought energy, they pushed the pace,” McCollum said. “From top to bottom, this was a good team win. Now we have to finish the season strong. Hopefully, we can take care of business and organize the play-in game.”

The win, combined with San Antonio’s loss at Minnesota, left New Orleans needing one more win or one more Spurs loss to clinch a play-in game at home on Wednesday.

McCollum appeared to hurt his shooting right hand when he fouled and fell to the ground in the third quarter. But after missing two free throws and a subsequent 3-pointer, he stayed in the game for nearly eight more minutes, hitting his fifth 3-pointer of the game and rolling a finger, before retiring for good.

Backup center Willy Hernangomez had 17 points and 14 rebounds for New Orleans. Larry Nance Jr., sent from Portland to New Orleans as part of the trade that also brought McCollum to the Pelicans, scored 12 points, as did rookie Trey Murphy III.

Backup guard and undrafted rookie Jose Alvarado had nine assists and four steals for the Pelicans, who were leading by 13 at halftime and 25 after three and stretched their lead from there.

Trail Blazers coach Chauncy Billups said he suspected his players might be “really fatigued” mentally as the season winds down.

“You see the finish line, the season is coming to an end. We’re not playing for the playoffs,” Billups said. “It’s a natural thing that happens. So we have to, as a coaching staff, do a better job of getting them to play.”

Drew Eubanks scored 20 points and CJ Elleby had 17 points for Portland, but the Blazers were sloppy with the ball and worked better around the basket. Portland committed 22 turnovers, leading to 36 points for the Pelicans. New Orleans also converted 23 offensive rebounds on 33 second-chance points and outrebounded the Blazers 49-27.

New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (17) gets past Portland Trail Blazers forward Drew Eubanks in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, April 7, 2022.

“We wanted to be active on our defense … try to wreak havoc with deflections and steals,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “This activates our offensive ability to go out and play on the open court. I thought our guys did a really good job.”

McCollum had 15 points and Valanciunas 14 in the first half, as New Orleans led by as much as 15 points.

TIPS

Trail Blazers: Reggie Perry scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting. … Former Pelicans Didi Louzada had 11 points and went 3-for-4 from deep. … Josh Hart, who was part of the McCollum trade, didn’t play, but got a standing ovation when he showed it to him on the on-court video board. Hart smiled, put her hand on his chest, stood up and waved to the crowd. … he shot 52.2% (36-of-69), including 11-of-31 from 3-point range.

Pelicans: While Ingram had a late scrape with a recurring hamstring injury, Green downplayed the severity of the injury. “We just don’t want to risk putting him down and he’s in pain,” Green said. “We don’t anticipate missing a play-in game or anything like that. He’s just not going to go tonight. … Jaxson Hayes highlighted his 11-point night with several authorized dunks. … Rookie Herb Jones had nine points and eight rebounds, notable for his blocking of what appeared to be a lob or long shot by Keon Johnson. Jones ran into Portland’s backcourt to grab the fumble and finished with a breakaway layup.

SION UPDATE

Green said before kickoff that Williamson, who hasn’t played or practiced fully this season as he recovers from an offseason foot injury, is now doing “controlled” five-on-five work.

“He’s playing against the coaches and some of our guys are going to be involved,” Green explained. “He is playing in a controlled scrimmage and that is where he has progressed. Beyond that, there are no updates on him.”

The Pelicans haven’t officially ruled Williamson out for the season, but they also haven’t offered any indication he’ll play any time soon. New Orleans has two regular season games left and must win two play-in games to advance to the NBA playoffs.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Trail Blazers: Visit Dallas on Friday night for their final road game of the season.

Pelicans: Visit Memphis on Saturday for their road finale.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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