One game after the most prolific scoring output of his stellar career, Damian Lillard recorded his lowest point total in a game in more than five weeks.
The Portland star will look to resume his scoring prowess when the Trail Blazers host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Lillard scored a career-best 71 points in Sunday’s 131-114 victory over the Houston Rockets but barely reached a third of that amount — 25 — during Tuesday’s 123-105 road loss to the Golden State Warriors.
In San Francisco, Lillard had 19 points in the first half when Portland led by as many as 23 before taking a 65-48 halftime lead. But he had just six in the second half while hounded by multiple defenders and the Trail Blazers were outscored 75-40.
“I was able to find opportunities in the first half,” Lillard said afterward. “… They completely sold out (in the second half) so I was just making the right plays and passing the ball.”
Lillard was just 2 of 7 from behind the arc after hitting 13 treys against Houston to tie for the second most in NBA history. Still, he scored 20 or more points for the 22nd consecutive appearance.
The Trail Blazers had a lot of problems in the second half while losing for the sixth time in nine games.
“We knew they were going to make runs throughout the game,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said afterward of the Warriors. “We had a great start, a great first half. … We didn’t do a good job of keeping our poise. I thought we lost trust in passing the ball.”
Wednesday’s contest will mark the first time that Lillard and CJ McCollum will be on the floor as opponents. The two close friends represented the starting backcourt in Portland for 6 1/2 seasons before McCollum was traded to the Pelicans 12-plus months ago.
Lillard was out with a season-ending abdominal injury when the teams played twice last season after the trade. And Lillard sat out when Portland won this season’s first meeting, 106-95 on Nov. 10 in New Orleans. The contest was the second of a back-to-back for the Trail Blazers and Lillard had just returned from a calf injury.
Jerami Grant scored 27 points for Portland that night, while Zion Williamson scored 29 for the Pelicans. McCollum scored just 13 points after averaging 24 in his previous two appearances against the Trail Blazers.
Williamson (hamstring) hasn’t played for the Pelicans since Jan. 2. New Orleans is just 7-18 during his absence.
The Pelicans also will be without guard Jose Alvarado (lower leg) and forward Larry Nance Jr. (ankle). Center Jonas Valanciunas (calf) and guard Josh Richardson (quadriceps) are listed as questionable.
“We’re a young team, and we’re going through a lot of injuries,” McCollum told reporters. “I don’t think I’ve been on a team where we’ve missed this many games from our starters.”
The Pelicans have lost four straight games and stand a half-game ahead of Portland for the final Western Conference play-in berth.
New Orleans is playing the sixth contest of a stretch in which seven of eight are on the road.
The Pelicans didn’t take advantage of the one home game, as they lost 101-93 to the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
“The first order of business for us — playing harder, playing more together — was there,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said afterward. “It’s just a tough loss on our home floor. I thought the guys fought. They feel awful about it. This is a part of the NBA season. You have moments where you’re just trying to find your rhythm and confidence, and that’s where we are.”
New Orleans star Brandon Ingram scored 25 points against Orlando for his eighth outing of at least 25 in his past nine appearances.
–Field Level Media