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McCollum returns, scores 16 points in Blazers’ 98-88 win

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (AP) – 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 on Monday night.

McCollum missed 17 games over six weeks after being injured on December 4. The ninth-year pro started on Monday but played on a minutes restriction. He made seven of 13 shots and two of four three-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 January 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 last Saturday in Washington.

“I thought we played well and a few of the things that we focussed 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 three-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 on Monday afternoon.

Mosley became the NBA’s 17th head coach put into the protocols this season.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum drives to the basket in front of Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Florida. PHOTO: AP
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