The last leg of this five-game road-trip entered the Big Easy as the Portland Trail Blazers (43-23) clashed with the New Orleans Pelicans (26-39) at the Smoothie King Center. The Blazers had to go up against one of the rising stars of the league in Anthony Davis without their three-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who suffered a nasty back injury in San Antonio on Wednesday.
Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez and Dorell Wright fought hard in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans were happy to stick around and trade the lead throughout most of the second half. After going up as much as six and the thought of a winless road-trip on the horizon, the Blazers’ three-point shooting bailed them out and they won an overall ugly game against Davis’ new career-high 36 points to win 111-103. Portland is now 5-1 without Aldridge.
The beginning of games for Portland on offense hasn’t been the greatest as of late but Wright, again filling the starting spot from Aldridge, gets Portland’s first basket with a three. Guys were running, picks were rolling and Lopez was dunking and the Pelicans are suddenly down 10-2. However it didn’t take long for the Pelicans to respond, they got Davis the ball and his midrange jump shot lethal enough to get New Orleans back within two. Lopez picked up two quick fouls and forced the Blazers to go small, which was the advantage for the Pelicans as they were able to cut in the paint, mainly Tyreke Evans, and get fairly easy points in the paint and midrange area.
Portland started to get lazy on passes and New Orleans was able to cash in on every single mistake. Both teams would trade leads and tie back-and-forth, all while the three-point shooting was going well for the Blazers. The Pelicans had Davis on the other end for alley-oop slam dunks. The Blazers were down 55-53 at the half, but strong contributions from all the starters was a good sign for positive things to come.
The third quarter featured at least 18-19 lead changes, neither club was very interested in playing defense and the midrange jumper was money for Davis. The Blazers’ starters were responsible for keeping Portland above water, the bench was simply suffering an off-night of bad, awful defense and turnovers. Things got from bad to worse as the Blazers hit yet another rough shooting patch and the Pelicans swarmed on the chance to go up six. Lillard took it to himself to handle the scoring load as he had struggled for much of the night and got to the foul line. His biggest shot came in a corner-three to get some cushion. A tip-in by Batum caps a 9-0 run and the Pelicans call time, but a deep 30 foot three-pointer from Lillard all but sealed the deal and New Orleans had to foul, the Blazers got to the line and closed this game nicely.
Who Was Hot
- The Portland starters accounted for 100 points tonight.
- Nicolas Batum gets top honors for doing absolutely everything tonight: 22 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, 4-8 from three and 8-16 overall in 45 minutes. He filled in the rebounding role left by Aldridge but on the other end, hit some key shots and was here, there and everywhere on the court.
- Damian Lillard owned the fourth quarter, two three-point field goals were the nail in the coffin to 27 points, five assists, three rebounds and a block in 41 minutes.
- Wesley Matthews had 20 points on 3-8 from downtown.
- Robin Lopez started strong early and came back late to be the defensive rock against his old team, he had 19 points, four rebounds and three blocks. He did however have a rough night against the lighter, faster and longer Davis but he did well enough to get by.
- Dorell Wright made his presence known in the beginning for his 4-6 shots from downtown but once Lillard and Batum got going he slid into the background: he collects 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and one block.
- Anthony Davis is a beast okay? BEAST. He’s so fast and once he goes on a scoring tear it’s scary. It’s a shame that the rest of the team would forget from time to time that they have him on the floor as could get to the rim with ease. He finishes with a new career high 36 points with nine rebounds, two blocks and 15-27 from the field.
- Three-point field makes: Blazers 14-33 (42%) – Pelicans 3-11 (27%)
- Blocks: Blazers 6 – Pelicans 3
Who Was Not
- The Blazer bench stunk like rotten shrimp gumbo. The only one who made some difference was Thomas Robinson but he played just seven minutes for two points, three rebounds and wasn’t the right guy to matchup against New Orleans and the tempo of the game. No one else scored more than two points, Meyers Leonard played seven minutes and did nothing but two assists, two turnovers and two fouls.
- Rebounds: Pelicans 44 – Blazers 37 (kind of expected)
- Steals: Pelicans 6 – Blazers 3
- Turnovers: Blazers 16 – Pelicans 10
- Points off turnovers: Pelicans 23 – Blazers 4 (New Orleans did a terrific job in making the most of every Blazer miscues)
- Points in the paint: Pelicans 46 – Blazers 42
- The Smoothie King Center gives their fans free McDonald’s fries when the Pelicans score 100 points. Makes those egg McMuffins more appealing perhaps?
- During the Blazer Deals segment with a $24 pair of Blazer-themed flip-flops, Mike Rice made note that he wouldn’t wear them on account of how bad his toenails are. Keep the socks on Rice!
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Dame hit this shot deep from the Gulf of Mexico and was ultimately the deciding factor.
Tonight’s win breaks the four game losing streak and ends this trip at 1-4. The Blazers come home to a quick three-game home stand and then believe it or not it’s another five-game trip this time next weekend. Portland faces the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at the Moda Center.