PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and the New Orleans Pelicans routed the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 124-90 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.
CJ McCollum, who played nine seasons with the Blazers before he was traded to the Pelicans last season, added 17 points. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 10 points and 21 rebounds, and New Orleans led by as many as 36.
The Pelicans are eighth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Minnesota and Golden State. The top six teams avoid the play-in tournament and are guaranteed playoff spots.
“We're playing with energy. We play together. We enjoy basketball,” Valanciunas said. “That gives us extra motivation, playing for something. So I think everybody is motivated. Everybody has a goal.”
Keon Johnson had 20 points off the bench for the Blazers, who have lost nine of 10 and will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Most of their regular starters were out with injuries, including top scorer Damian Lillard (right calf), Jerami Grant (bruised left quad), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) and Anfernee Simons (right foot).
“I wasn't concerned about the effort. I thought we played hard," coach Chauncey Billups said. “That's a team that's on a mission. They're playing very well, and they just kicked our butt, man.”
Ingram was selected the NBA Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 31.3 points, 10 assists and 6.3 rebounds in wins over San Antonio, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Clippers last week.
He had 18 points in the first half and the Pelicans led 58-35 at halftime.
With the game well in hand, Ingram and McCollum both went to the bench for the final quarter.
“We came in and just took care of business,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We know the Trail Blazers are down guys, but it was important for us to respect our opponent.”
Given the injuries and the Western Conference standings, Billups has turned his attention to developing young players.
“Most of these guys that are out there right now, they weren’t planning on being out there this time of year,” Billups said. “So they’re grateful and thankful for the opportunity. And I feel like they’re doing a pretty good job with it.”
Valanciunas said the Pelicans are keeping an eye on the scoreboard and the standings as the postseason approaches.
“It's go time now,” he said. “We're watching all the games, we're watching all the scores. And we're trying to climb up."
Pelicans: Green praised Ingram before the game: “He understands the moment. He understands what's in front of us right now. So he's doing a great job of setting the tone early in games, and then finding his teammates when guys are open. When he has scoring opportunities, he's taken advantage of it.”
Trail Blazers: Won the first of their four games this season against the Pelicans, but dropped the next two. ... Nassir Little was given a technical foul while on the bench in the first half. ... The Blazers finished with 15 assists, compared to 31 for New Orleans.
Pelicans: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
Trail Blazers: Host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
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