CJ McCollum scored 16 points in his first game back from a collapsed lung, Jusuf Nurkic added 21 points and a season-best 22 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Orlando Magic 98-88 Monday night.
McCollum missed 17 games over six weeks after being injured Dec. 4. The ninth-year pro started Monday but played on a minutes restriction. He made 7 of 13 shots and 2 of 4 3-pointers in 28 minutes.
“I felt good because I had worked on my game,” said McCollum, who was present for the birth of his first child while he was away from basketball. “I worked extremely hard over the last two weeks to recondition, build my body back and getting up shots. And I think you can tell.”
Portland beat the Magic for a 10th straight time dating to Jan. 13, 2017. The Blazers have won four of five games overall and are 4-14 on the road. The Blazers won their second straight road game after ending a nine-game road skid Saturday in Washington.
“I thought we played well and a few of the things that we focused on trying to take away, we did a good job,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “It was good to have CJ back. He didn’t force anything. He was right back like he never left.”
Ben McLemore added 14 points and four 3-pointers for the Blazers. Nurkic registered his team-best 18th double-double and finished one rebound shy of tying a career high.
Assistant Jesse Mermuys coached Orlando after head coach Jamahl Mosley and assistant Nate Tibbetts entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols Monday afternoon. Mosley became the NBA’s 17th head coach put into the protocols this season.
Orlando never led after scoring the game’s first basket and fell to 0-20 when failing to score 100 points. Franz Wagner and Mortiz Wagner each had 14 points.
The Magic lost their second straight after ending a 10-game losing streak Friday in Charlotte. Orlando hasn’t won at Amway Center since Dec. 1 and dropped to an NBA-worst 2-16 at home.
“We missed shots that we normally make,” said Magic center Mo Bamba, who had nine rebounds and four blocks. “In those situations we need to be able to fall back on our defense.”
Orlando native Anfernee Simons played in front of several dozen family members but struggled throughout with just 13 points. He was coming off a 31-point effort in Portland’s win Saturday. Fellow Orlando native Nassir Little added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers.
“I thought Nas was incredible, just with the way he was crashing the glass and getting us extra opportunities,” Billups said.
Orlando got within nine midway through the third quarter, but it was turned back by a 16-2 Portland burst. McLemore hit three 3-pointers and two free throws during the run.
McCollum scored Portland’s first and last baskets of the first half and the Blazers led 54-40 at the break.
MCCOLLUM MAKES HIS RETURN
Even though he missed more than a month of game action, McCollum stayed in close contact with the team and regularly called and texted with Billups. The first-year head coach said the guard has been extraordinarily eager to get back on the floor following his lengthy absence.
“It’s not just good to have him back on the floor; it’s good to have him back around the locker room and around the guys because he’s one of our leaders and he gives us life,” Billups said.
Trail Blazers: Norman Powell has cleared COVID-19 protocols but missed his fifth straight game. Billups said the guard should play Wednesday. ... Nurkic registered the third 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career.
Magic: Mermuys said he spent most of Monday preparing for his first shot to be a head coach at the NBA level. “Today has been a good day with a lot of reflection and its’s under some tough circumstances, obviously. But I’ve dreamt of being a head coach in the NBA for a really long time. This isn’t that, but it’s an opportunity, for sure.” ... Wendell Carter Jr. missed his sixth straight game with a sore left hamstring.
Trail Blazers: Play at Miami on Wednesday night.
Magic: Play at Philadelphia on Wednesday night.