You can’t start the second half of a road game shooting 1-of-9 from the field and expect to survive.
That’s what happened to the Charlotte Hornets against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. That drought started the Hornets down the course of being outscored by 12 during the third quarter. The Blazers rode that to a 115-98 victory at the Moda Center.
The loss was the Hornets’ fifth in a row, dropping them to 23-26. The Blazers improved to 22-28.
This was a dramatic reversal from the previous Hornets-Blazers matchup in Charlotte. The Hornets won that game 107-85 on Jan. 18, starting a three-game winning streak. The Hornets haven’t won since that streak and face a daunting pair of games out West: Wednesday against the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors and Saturday against the Northwest Division-leading Utah Jazz.
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The Blazers got 27 points from point guard Damian Lillard and 21 off the bench from guard Allen Crabbe. Hornets point guard Kemba Walker finished with 22 points.
Three who mattered
Lillard: He nearly reached his scoring average by the end of the third quarter.
Crabbe: The Portland guard was by far the best nonstarter in this game.
Mason Plumlee: He was solid as a rebounder at both ends all game.
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford has switched up the travel schedule a bit to try to keep his players more rested. The objective is fewer late-night flights. The Hornets flew to Portland on Sunday for a Tuesday game. They will fly to Salt Lakes City on Thursday midday, rather than right after the Golden State game. And they will fly home from Salt Lake City on Sunday, rather than Saturday night.
▪ Clifford believes one of his mentors, Jeff Van Gundy, will coach again. Van Gundy last coached in 2007 with the Houston Rockets. He is a hugely successful television commentator for ABC and ESPN, but it was clear from the conviction Clifford had when he answered that question that he thinks his former boss still wants to coach.
▪ The Hornets were again without center Cody Zeller, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a quad contusion. Clifford indicated it’s highly unlikely Zeller could play Wednesday against the Warriors.
▪ Jeremy Lamb, who has missed six games with an inflamed metatarsal, was available to play Tuesday. He has had only one practice (Monday in Portland) to get back up to speed.
▪ The Trail Blazers, who have struggled defensively against dribble penetration, had small forward Evan Turner cover Walker early.
▪ Walker passed Larry Johnson for third place on the Hornets’ all-time scoring list. He now trails Gerald Wallace for second with Dell Curry first.
▪ The Blazers’ bench outscored the Hornets’ reserves in the first half 26-10, thanks to Crabbe’s 16 points.
▪ Walker extended his streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 27.
C OFFENSE: The start of the second half, after the Hornets trimmed the Blazers’ lead to six at halftime, set the tone for the rest of the game.
D DEFENSE: The Hornets are usually a strong defensive rebounding team, but they let the Blazers get constant offensive rebounds.
C COACHING: This game looked like the Hornets’ best chance to win one on the three-game West Coast trip.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell