PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers returned to the practice court Sunday morning, the night after they opened the playoffs on the wrong end of a Game 1 letdown against the New Orleans Pelicans.
After surrendering home-court advantage in a 97-95 loss, the Blazers say they aren’t sulking and panicking.
“Everybody’s good,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “It’s the first to four not the first to one.”
The Pelicans hounded McCollum and his backcourt partner Damian Lillard into a combined 13-for-41 shooting night, limiting Portland’s potent guards to just three first-half points.
New Orleans sent two defenders toward Lillard and McCollum whenever either of them tried to navigate around screens. When they did make their way into the paint, Pelicans defenders swarmed the interior, a committed effort to make life miserable for Portland’s best players.
Instead of fretting over a defensive game plan that effectively limited their offensive attack, Lillard found some solace that despite a bad shooting night, his team found a way to erase a 19-point third-quarter deficit and had a chance to win in the closing minutes.
“I feel like (McCollum and I) probably played as bad as we could’ve possibly played in that game and they played really well and we still had a chance in the end,” Lillard said. “I think for us we just gotta come out and be better. We had situations where we just had lapses in our coverages and our execution and they took advantage of it.”
McCollum, who scored all 19 of his points after halftime, insisted that he got the shots he wanted against the Pelicans’ defense but that he just missed them. That didn’t stop him from poring over film with Blazers assistant David Vanterpool for more than an hour after practice had officially ended. Between an 0-for-6 start from the floor and a crucial turnover in crunch time he had plenty to review.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts also spent plenty of time with the game film. He watched it late Saturday night when he returned home from the arena and again Sunday morning before practice. His film sessions led him to echoing McCollum’s sentiments, noting that of Portland’s 39 three-point attempts, 35 were quality looks while conceding that the Pelicans made shots in the lane difficult from start to finish.
Even if there was no clear signs of panic coming from the Blazers after Game 1, there are tweaks coming ahead of Game 2.
“I don’t think you’re making wholesale changes,” Stotts said. “You’re doing things you’ve already done but maybe changing a little bit at the offensive end.”
Whether those changes emphasize getting Lillard and McCollum cleaner looks or trying to maximize their role players as the Pelicans’ key on Portland’s stars, the Blazers say they’re confident they can avoid the nightmare of an 0-2 start to the postseason.
As Lillard put it: “I think if we come out and we play like the team that we are then it’ll be a much better performance in the next game.”