Zion Williamson

Schedule proves Trail Blazers face difficult uphill climb to playoff berth

Schedule proves Trail Blazers face difficult uphill climb to playoff berth

The NBA Friday announced its schedule for what it is calling “seeding games” for the teams that will be sequestered in Orlando for the league’s return-to-play plan.

And it probably should have just handed the New Orleans Pelicans the eighth seed in the Western Conference along with it.

With the Trail Blazers sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, the schedule becomes an important piece in the team’s hopes of overhauling Memphis for the eighth and final playoff berth in the conference.

Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento are all three-and-a-half games behind the Grizzlies for that spot but the Trail Blazers have a percentage-point edge over the other two teams because they have played two more games.

Each team will play eight games prior to the playoffs being decided and the schedules for those three teams shows the Pelicans with a huge advantage in the caliber of competition.

New Orleans -- which would have had the easiest schedule had the season run to its natural conclusion -- has a monstrous scheduling edge in the seeding games.

The combined record of the eight teams the Pels play is 254-259. The record of the squads Portland plays is 311-208. And Memphis faces a schedule of teams that compiled a 307-207 mark.

What a disparity.

The bottom line, the Trail Blazers are going to play six teams that finished the pre-hiatus with an above-.500 record. New Orleans will play two teams that had records over .500. In fact, the Pelicans have the easiest schedule of any of the 22 teams in Orlando.

And you wonder why the Trail Blazers voted against this return-to-play plan?

Obviously, at this point there is no way of knowing what sort of motivation any of the teams that are locked into a playoff berth will have when they play their “seeding” games. Any of the teams fighting for a chance at the playoffs could get lucky and meet an upper-echelon team that decides to rest a key player or three.

That remains to be seen.

But we know now that it is going to be a steep uphill battle for the Trail Blazers.

And we also know the NBA is very likely to get what it wants for television -- a LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson matchup in the first round.

A group-play scenario for NBA playoffs may prove to be a non-starter

A group-play scenario for NBA playoffs may prove to be a non-starter

The NBA is apparently mulling two options to kick off its postseason July 31 in Orlando, where the Magic Kingdom will turn into the Magic Bubble, as teams gather to find a resolution to the 2020 season.

The options being explored seem to be a World-Cup style group stage, where several teams play a round-robin in one of several pools before the best two or three in each pool advance to a playoff bracket. Or a simple play-in tournament, where borderline teams -- likely just in the Western Conference --  try to steal the eighth seed from Memphis.

I believe the play-in tournament is the most likely scenario -- it seems to be the option that is fair to the most teams and also the format most likely to get the most votes from league governors.

I believe the idea of pool play, or any other scheme that includes teams that are firmly entrenched among the top eight teams in each conference, is not going to get enough votes to pass.

And it appears in this NBA, while Commissioner Adam Silver has power, he doesn’t have David Stern-like power, where he can simply ramrod whatever proposal he wishes down the throats of the owners.

I just don’t think upper-echelon teams will vote to be thrown into a pool with teams such as New Orleans and Portland that could knock them out of the postseason before it even gets to a bracket.

And it’s not fair.

I don’t believe teams such as Denver, Boston, Toronto, the Clippers and the Jazz, which have had solid seasons and earned the right to enjoy a first-round playoff matchup against a lower-seeded team, should have to jeopardize their season in a pool where one bad game might eliminate them.

For the NBA, any sort of play-in should involve the teams in the Western Conference -- the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Spurs and Kings -- that were breathing down the neck of eighth-seeded Memphis.

I do not believe the Grizzlies, given their schedule and the way they had been playing, were going to be able to hold onto that seed.

Just let 20 teams play four or five games in Orlando to get ready for the postseason, then throw Nos. 9-12 in the West into a sudden-death tourney -- win or go home -- for the right to meet Memphis in a best-of-three series for that eighth spot.

Fair to all concerned, with a nod to the Grizzlies for holding the eighth seed. And those win-or-go-home games will be must-see television.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if some form of tournament will be set up that puts not one but two of the 16 playoff berths up for grabs.

That would give the league’s new darlings, New Orleans and Zion Williamson, not only two chances to make the field but an opportunity to escape a first-round matchup with the league’s other ratings monster, LeBron and the Lakers. This from ESPN's Brian Windhorst:

"One of the things I've been hearing as I've talked to people in the league is, the league is gonna set up this playoff plan to make sure Zion Williamson is involved. ... Paranoia is at the top of the list with anything in the NBA. ... They're always paranoid about everything—'the league is screwing me, and they're helping that guy.' In this case, there's a number of different reasons why the league would want to have 20 or 24 teams, a number of different reasons to get extra games. But most of those scenarios include making sure, having Zion Williamson in the postseason."

And if you think that’s not a factor, you haven’t studied this league very long, The NBA will manipulate matchups, schedules and maybe even games to get what it wants. Don't believe me... well, all I'm going to say is that if you want to defeat New Orleans in a play-in tournament, you better have a pretty big lead going into the fourth quarter.

Certainly, the Trail Blazers should be locked into whatever format is used, simply because they have a one-percentage-point lead over New Orleans. If the Pelicans are in -- and they will be -- Portland has to be there, too.

Whatever happens, the hype machine is going to be running at full speed because the NBA has suffered through a season of ratings declines and this is a chance to salvage something better.

And don’t overlook the fact that the Trail Blazers, with Jusuf Nurkic and Zack Collins presumably healthy, have a great chance to be a much better team than their seeding would be and thus a Cinderella team in the postseason.

We should know the format of this thing next week.

Why the Trail Blazers' best bet to make the postseason is Zion Williamson

Why the Trail Blazers' best bet to make the postseason is Zion Williamson

The NBA season has been suspended since March 11 and the lack of games has cost the league millions.

That number could climb into the billions if the postseason doesn't happen in any capacity, which is why the NBA playoffs will almost assuredly get played. But in what form?

Many different variations have been speculated, including playing out the remainder of the regular season which seems unlikely to heading straight into the postseason using the standings as of March 11. No team outside the conference's top-eight was closer than 3.5 games from making the postseason, so that seems decently fair.

But the NBA wants to maximize revenue when it returns to minimize the league's losses.

In a league driven by star power, the NBA may shift to a model that allows some of the NBA's biggest stars to return to the court even if they were most likely going to be on the outside looking in. That mindset, as reported by NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh, could be a determining factor for the league bringing back more than 16 teams to allow Zion Williamson to draw more eyes to the games.

Zion Williams has quickly become one of the most popular players in the NBA. According to Variety, 2.36 million people tuned in for his debut game despite Williamson operating on a strict minutes restriction. Zion's first matchup against LeBron on TNT drew 2.24 million viewers while an Eastern Conference Finals rematch Bucks-Raptors earlier that night only had 1.15 million tune in. 

As fun as Ja Morant and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies are, everyone besides those living in Memphis would rather watch Zion take on the Lakers for four games than the Grizzlies. But the NBA can't just put Zion into the field of 16 as the Pelicans are 3.5 games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot, but they can expand the field of teams to fit in the Pelicans. Which by consequence would include the Portland Trail Blazers who have one more win than the Pelicans but one more loss for a winning percentage barely higher than New Orleans'.

In fact, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday afternoon that the Blazers are one of the four teams being explored in potential NBA return plans. 

NBC Sports Northwest Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes later reiterated that the Blazers having one more win than the Pelicans could be the difference between returning to the court or not. 

Damian Lillard told Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes on Tuesday that he would only participate in any more games this season if the Blazers have a real opportunity to make the postseason. 

If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there. — Damian Lillard

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard is sending a message to the NBA -- give us a shot at playoffs

The Blazers could be a dangerous team if they get the chance due to the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins to the lineup, as reported by AJ McCord of KOIN.

The NBA announced this past Saturday that they have entered negotiations with the Walt Disney Corporation to play out the rest of the 2019-20 season at its ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

[RELATED]: NBA in talks with Disney to resume season late July in Orlando

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

The Trail Blazers, no doubt, will get their chance to fight for playoff berth

The Trail Blazers, no doubt, will get their chance to fight for playoff berth

When the NBA finally figures out what the end of the 2020 season will look like when it gets together, likely in Florida's version of the Magic Kingdom, rest assured the Trail Blazers will have some way, some path, to competing in the playoffs.

It will happen.

This league is smart enough to know that as many of its superstars and their fan bases as possible need to be a part of the NBA’s grand reopening. This is going to be happening in the middle of the summer in an unprecedented time of other sports also launching at approximately the same time -- with no fans present at any of the games. And at least in the NBA, no home games for any team.

Television ratings will be everything. And that’s going to be a dogfight between MLB, the NHL and NBA -- with the NFL looming. Anything that can be done to bring eyeballs to games should and will be done by all the leagues.

That means compelling players and matchups. Storylines. Proven ratings-getters. It also means games that count. Real games. And if teams not currently in the top 16 in the league standings aren't given a chance to somehow play their way into the postseason, they won't be playing meaningful games.

They shouldn't even be there.

The NBA is not shy about attempting to make its product as relevant as possible. It has always done everything possible -- above board and maybe sometimes not above board -- to bring fans the matchups the league thinks people want.

Damian Lillard drew a line in the sand Tuesday, telling the league that if his team doesn’t have a chance to play its way into the playoffs, you won’t see him on the court.

And you can bet the league office listened. But I would also wager that the NBA already knew that not only Lillard, but many of the league’s best and most important players feel the same way. I do not believe the NBA wants any part of a situation that leaves Lillard, or other great players, on the sidelines.

If teams aren’t competing for a playoff berth at some point, they’re just playing exhibition games -- and the best players don’t bother much with non-counting games.

So there will be a mechanism for several teams -- not just the Trail Blazers, who should be rejuvenated by the presence of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins -- but several other teams on the fringes of a playoff berth to have a shot at the playoffs.

The league wants Damian Lillard to play meaningful games. That translates into TV ratings.

Something else does, too -- and it plays into Portland’s playoff chances. Obviously, LeBron James is a ratings monster and the NBA was hurt all season by James playing on the west coast, making his games difficult to watch in the east. Ratings suffered.

And the league’s new ratings monster is Zion Williamson. Everyone knows this and you can’t talk to many people around the league who don’t believe that Zion makes a playoff/play-in scenario a necessity.

And guess what? The Trail Blazers have one more loss than Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans but also one more win and thus, if league standings are frozen now and used to determine playoff eligibility, Portland is one single, scant percentage point ahead of the Pels in the standings.

I don’t see any way the entire remainder of the schedule will be played -- there isn’t enough time. Something will be done based on the standings as they sit now.

So if Zion is in, the Trail Blazers are in. It’s that simple. You can’t put New Orleans in without putting Portland in. 

The league needs Zion and Dame -- and I just can’t see any way they will be left out.

It won’t happen. They will get their chance. Maybe not a great chance, but a chance.

New Orleans outside shooting upstages Zion as Blazers fall at home

New Orleans outside shooting upstages Zion as Blazers fall at home

A whole lot of people came to see rookie sensation Zion Williamson Friday night in Moda Center as his New Orleans Pelicans hit town to meet the Trail Blazers.

Williamson gave them a 25-point show, hitting 10 of his 17 shots on the way to 25 points. It wasn’t spectacular, though, as he claimed only four rebounds, hit just half of his 10 free throws and finished with a zero in his plus-minus column, while his team posted a 128-115 win over the Trail Blazers.

The more spectacular show was the New Orleans outside shooting. The Pels were 18-34 from three-point range and every time Portland mounted any sort of rally, somebody stepped up to knock down a three to kill the momentum.

“That’s always tough,” Carmelo Anthony said. “You play a whole possession of defense and they get an offensive rebound or a kick out for a three. We make a run and they silence that with a three. Those are always momentum killers, right there.”

The starting New Orleans guards, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, were a combined 7-11 from three-point range, Brandon Ingram was 3-4 and Josh Hart 3-3. The Trail Blazers never led in the game and were tied just once.

And while the Pelicans were firing away at a 52.9 percent pace from the outside, Portland just couldn’t keep up, hitting 10 of 27 -- meaning the Blazers were beaten by 24 points from the three-point line.

The Trail Blazers didn’t defend well enough to win and it would be difficult to blame their offense for this loss.

The Pels got pretty much what they wanted, when they wanted it. The game was as close as it was only because New Orleans managed to make just 20 of its 33 free throws.

It was Portland’s first full game after Damian Lillard’s groin injury and the Trail Blazers were very short-handed even before that happened. But with Lillard out, nothing is going to come easy.

“I know it’s going to be tougher for everybody,” said Hassan Whiteside, who had 19 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Trail Blazers. “It’s going to be tougher for me, tougher for CJ -- because we’ve been playing a lot through (Lillard). And he makes a lot of decisions out there,

“But like I said, we’ve got to come out here and keep competing. We’ve got the first one under our belt, let’s move on to Detroit (Sunday night in Moda) and get a win. That’s a must-win.”

At this point, you could call all of them must-wins.

There are only 25 games left in the season and nobody knows how many of those will be played without Lillard. Portland still trails Memphis by four games in the loss column for the final playoff spot and must hold off the Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs in their rearview mirror.

It’s not going to be easy.

Instant Analysis: Short-handed Blazers can't slow down Zion, Pelicans

Instant Analysis: Short-handed Blazers can't slow down Zion, Pelicans

With no Damian Lillard (groin strain) Friday night, Gary Trent Jr. got the starting nod as CJ McCollum shifted to point guard with Portland hosting the New Orleans Pelicans.  

And the Pelicans were red hot against the Blazers both inside and out.

New Orleans started the game hitting 12 of its first 16 shot attempts (5-of-6 from three).

Behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram’s 10 points each, the Pelicans scored 40 first quarter points.

New Orleans didn’t cool down until early in the third quarter. Portland cut the lead to seven midway through the third after the Pelicans had led by as many as 19 points.

Just when it looked like the Blazers could be within striking distance, the Pelicans went on a 12-0 run to close the third quarter. The Pelicans took that momentum into the final period to run away with the win. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: PELICANS 128, TRAIL BLAZERS 115

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s loss:

1. McCollum steps into new role

Following Thursday’s practice, CJ McCollum discussed how he would have to get his teammates involved and be able to manage the game with Lillard sidelined. McCollum was very active in finding his open teammate Friday night. He had seven assists in the first quarter. He also had as many points in the first 12 minutes. McCollum and the rest of the Blazer wings made a conscience effort to get the ball down low to Carmelo Anthony. Melo took advantage of smaller defenders, bodying them up on the block. He found success down low and at the free throw line.  

2. Pelicans don’t cash in on free throws

After not blowing the whistle that much to start the game, the Blazers started racking up fouls midway through the first quarter. By halftime, Portland had committed 18 personal fouls. Yet, the Pelicans weren’t able to convert from the free throw line. Their 10-point lead at the break could’ve been much larger.

New Orleans went 16-of-28 from the charity stripe in the first half.  Zion Williamson had 19 points at the half, but he went just 5-of-10 from the line.

3. Portland struggled to get stops

The Trail Blazers were able to put up plenty of points on the board. It was on the other end of the ball where the Blazers struggled.

When Portland would make a run, the Pelicans would knock down a corner three or rack up second chance points, or find a way to get a timely bucket.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers continue their three-game homestand Sunday night when Portland hosts the Detroit Pistons. The Blazers and Pistons will tip-off at 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Gary Trent Jr. will get the start vs. Pelicans

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Gary Trent Jr. will get the start vs. Pelicans

Before the Trail Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 7:30p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his team needs to be much better in transition and make sure they don’t turn the ball over too much to give New Orleans more transition opportunities.  

Coach Stotts also described Zion Williamson as ‘dynamic,’ but mentioned that the Pelicans ‘have a lot of good shooters.’

Stotts added that Gary Trent Jr. will get the start with Damian Lillard (right groin strain) out.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Damian Lillard (right groin strain), Mario Hezonja (left ankle sprain), Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for Friday's game vs. New Orleans.

PELICANS INJURY REPORT:

Darius Miller (right Achilles surgery), Kenrich Williams (lower back soreness), Josh Gray (Two-way) and Zylan Cheatham (Two-way) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

Friday's game will be the fourth and final matchup between the Trail Blazers and the Pelicans during the 2019-20 season. New Orleans leads the season series, 3-0.

-- LAST MEETING: New Orleans beat Portland, 138-117, in New Orleans on Feb. 11. CJ McCollum led Portland with 20 points (7-17 FG, 4-8 3-PT, 2-2 FT), one rebound and three assists, while Zion Williamson paced the Pelicans with a career-high 31 points (10-17 FG, 11-14 FT), nine rebounds, and a career-high five assists.

-- Portland and New Orleans have split their last 10 meetings, 5-5. The Trail Blazers swept the 2018-19 season series, 3-0.

-- CJ McCollum has scored at least 20 points in each of his last five outings against the Pelicans, going 14-of-35 (40.0%) from 3-PT range over that five-game span.

-- Hassan Whiteside recorded 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with 14 rebounds, three assists and one block against the Pelicans on Feb. 11. Whiteside has recorded a double-double in each of his last four games against New Orleans.

-- JJ Redick had 20 points (5-10 FG, 4-7 3-PT, 6-6 FT), two rebounds and two assists against Portland on Feb. 11. Redick is averaging 18.0 points (50.0% FG, 50.0% 3-PT, 91.7% FT) in three games against Portland this season.

-- Brandon Ingram missed the Pelican's last game against the Trail Blazers with a right ankle sprain, but on Dec. 23 put up 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals against Portland. He is averaging 20.0 points (36.8% FG, 30.0% 3-PT, 100% FT), 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.00 steals in two games against the Trail Blazers this season.

Zion Williamson is virtually unstoppable and the Trail Blazers learned the hard way

Zion Williamson is virtually unstoppable and the Trail Blazers learned the hard way

NEW ORLEANS – Seeing is believing, believing is seeing... Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson live and in person... it's something else.

Tuesday night, the Trail Blazers got their first look at Zion and he proved to be a force down low.

After Portland got off to a hot start in the first quarter, it looked as though the Blazers could be on their way to an easy victory in the Big Easy.

But, the Pelicans climbed their way back into it, in part, because of the points in the paint from the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick. New Orleans ended up taking it to the Blazers, blowing out the Trail Blazers, 138-117.  

It was Williamson’s first game back from an ankle sprain. It’s safe to say he’s feeling a lot better.

He scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting in just his ninth game of his young NBA career.  

At 6’6” and 284 pounds, Zion is a beast to deal with. But, the Blazers seemed a bit surprised by Williamson’s quickness. 

Following Tuesday’s game, Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts described the challenges that the 19-year-old brings to the court. 

“He’s dynamic. He’s very explosive, quick jumper, quick reactor, and he was quick to the ball. He first step was quick, so with that strength and quickness it’s a tough matchup,” Stotts said.

Williamson is averaging 19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists so far this season.

He played just 28 minutes Tuesday night thanks to both teams pulling their starters early in the final quarter with the game well in-hand.

Damian Lillard, who finished with 20 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the loss discussed how the Williamson has found success so early in his NBA career. 

He’s just really strong, really physical, athletic and you know, he lives in the paint. I think with his strength and athleticism it’s a lot of pressure on guys to try not to foul him and also, just try not to give him position to where he gonna be getting dunks and lay-ups… It’s just him being tough to deal with. -- Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard 

Yes, Williamson got to the free throw line, too.

A lot.

He went 11-for-14 from the charity stripe.  

It begs the question: Can an NBA rookie get ‘superstar’ calls already?

If you ask CJ McCollum... yes, he is... 

“He’s strong, finishes well, and is a fast kid. He already gets the superstar calls.” McCollum said with a smile.

It’s not just Zion’s bullish way about him, it’s also that there hasn’t been too many opportunities to scout him with him only playing a total of nine games up to this point.

“You defend him with all five,” McCollum said. “Try to make it difficult. Keep him off the line. I think he had 30 on all lay-ups and free throws… Try to keep him away from the basket and hope the refs don’t call fouls. I don’t know. He’s only played like seven games, so people haven’t figure out how to stop him yet.”

The game will undoubtedly catch up with Zion. Players will figure out how to defend him. But, Zion will develop and grow, too. Which makes for an intriguing chess match for many years to come. 

The 3rd quarter and 3-point shots doom Trail Blazers in New Orleans

The 3rd quarter and 3-point shots doom Trail Blazers in New Orleans

The number three was a big problem for the Trail Blazers Tuesday night in New Orleans.

The third quarter was the turning point of the game, where Portland was outscored 41-21 by the Pelicans. And three-point field goals? Mission impossible.

Between them, Damian Lillard and Gary Trent split a 0-8 shooting night from distance and their team was an anemic 7-29.

Three strikes and you’re out. And Portland, which led by 16 points during a furious first quarter, by nine when the quarter ended and by two at the half, were steamrolled in the third quarter and Zion Williamson was driving that machine.

It was a downright brutal 12 minutes.

“Transitions for the most part,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Offensively, I don’t know what we shot in the quarter, but we gave up a lot of transitions. Some of it was them and some of it was us. I think the boxscore had them for 17 fast-break points.

“When we didn’t score, they were getting out and running. In the third quarter, we missed some shots and gave them momentum.

“We made our run in the first quarter. That minute and a half where we got a lot of turnovers and converted them in transition. That little minute and a half stretch was kind of an anomaly.

“Other than that run, the first half was kind of even, as well.”

The Pels made 18 of their 28 third-quarter shots and Portland hit just 6 of 18. The rebounds were a ridiculous 17-4 and the assists were 13-3.

Talk about getting slapped around -- the Trail Blazers were the JV team playing against the varsity in the third quarter, when the Pelicans did have 17 fast-break points to Portland’s 2.

That won’t work.

“Our energy wasn’t there,” Lillard said. They made all the effort plays. They just outplayed us. We lost that quarter by 20. When you have that kind of quarter, it’s tough to win on the road.”

And on Wednesday, the team travels to Memphis for a big contest against a team the Blazers trail in the standings by guess how many games?

Three.

Instant Analysis: Blazers fall flat in the third quarter in the Big Easy

Instant Analysis: Blazers fall flat in the third quarter in the Big Easy

NEW ORLEANS – It was a physical game in NOLA Tuesday night. The Trail Blazers started off hot and jumped out to 28-14 early lead over the Pelicans.

But, New Orleans didn’t go away quietly and the Pelicans were all business in the second half. 

The Blazers held a two-point lead at halftime with most of Portland’s damage coming down low. At the break, the Blazers had 38 points in the paint to the Pelicans’ 28. New Orleans was on the attack in the second half, though, and ended up outscoring the Blazers in the paint, 56-44 through three quarters.

After the Pelicans went on a scoring tear in the third quarter, it was apparent that the Blazers weren't going to be able to complete the comeback early on in the fourth. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: PELICANS 138, TRAIL BLAZERS 117

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:

Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes

The Blazers came out as if they meant business… But as the game went along, they were out of business…. stopped defending, didn’t get back on defense and never did find their touch from three-point range… and it’s getting to the point when Lillard doesn’t score big, they have a lot of trouble winning.

Trail Blazers Reporter Jamie Hudson:

It looked like there was more of concerted effort to swing the ball around a bit more for Portland, especially early on. Their impressive ball movement helped them take a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

But then, the third quarter happened. The Blazers struggled to get anything going offensively and it was quite the opposite for the Pelicans. Portland just wasn’t able to overcome the third quarter with New Orleans outscoring Portland, 41-21. 

Also, Zion Williamson in person -- he looked better than advertised. He can bully anyone and everyone down low.

Trail Blazers Producer Chris Bukhardt:

What happened in the third quarter? Portland went from a two-point halftime lead to trailing by 20 in the blink of an eye. New Orleans stepped up its defense, while at the same time the Blazers defense disappeared. New Orleans did too much damage in transition. Portland would miss a bucket, fail to get back on defense, and the Pelicans would get an easy bucket. The frustrating part about the defense in the second half was that the team looked great in the first quarter. It's what allowed them to jump out to an early 16-point lead. But they need to find a way to sustain that for 48 minutes. This is a big road trip when it comes to the playoff standings, and they didn't play with the urgency of a team in desperate need of wins. If then don't pick up the victory in Memphis tomorrow then the road to the playoffs will become a whole lot rougher.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night. Catch all the action between the Blazers and Grizzlies at 5:00pm PT on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the player!