LaMarcus Aldridge paces Blazers past Pelicans in 114-88 rout

Terry Stotts

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The Portland Trail Blazers pulverized the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday 114-88 less than 24 hours removed from winning triple-overtime against the San Antonio Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 27 points and 12 rebounds, was dominant in a marquee match-up with Anthony Davis.

Davis has been regarded by some as the league’s best player and he can probably impact the game in more facets than any player in the league. But he’s still young and Aldridge absolutely took him to school tonight, at least on the offensive end. Joel Freeland took the task of guarding Davis much of the night but when Davis guarded Aldridge didn’t have much of a chance. Just like everybody else on New Orleans. Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik also took their turns getting cooked by Aldridge.

Damian Lillard was scowling and giving everybody the Dame face all night long. He didn’t need to take a lot of shots with the ball zipping around the court for much of the game. He scored 17 points on 12 shots and dished seven assists to lead the team which included a couple dagger shots. But Nicolas Batum and Steve Blake each dished five assists and Allen Crabbe had four.

But it all began at the start of the game and with Portland dominating the Pelicans in every way. LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Freeland shut down the Pelicans on both ends, dominating Omer Asik and Anthony Davis. Davis had a terrible game and did miss some easy ones. That goes for everyone on the Pelicans team. But Freeland contested everything and Aldridge was good at helping when needed. Aldridge’s hands were also in full force Saturday night after getting five thefts against the Spurs. Aldridge had three steals to go with two blocks as he continues to shoulder more of a defensive load.

Freeland played great but he just couldn’t stay on the floor. The Blazers jumped out to the big lead in large part because of his activity on defense which helped their offense get out in transition. Their ball movement looked like the 2013-14 Blazers team that had one of the league’s most dynamic offenses. The Pelicans are a bad defensive team by the numbers but Portland really took advantage of an opportunity.

Looking at the schedule it’s clear that Saturday was their best chance to get a win. Houston is a monster of a team with one of the league’s best defense. The Thunder have Russell Westbrook, a top defense and should have Kevin Durant by gametime. The Blazers played like they had a major opportunity and took advantage of it.

They also had a lot of plays like this dunk from Thomas Robinson.

https://vine.co/v/OXM6eH0BXOd/embed

Now their trip is at worst a split when they came into it without Robin Lopez and had one game without both Lopez and Batum. Batum gutted it out tonight and told the Oregonian’s Joe Freeman that he “had to.”┬áHe still doesn’t have his 3-point shot and who knows when that will come around this season. But with a banged up knee and wrist Batum attacked the basket finishing with 11 points, five assists, three steals. All five of his field goals came within the restricted area according to NBA.com.

Portland as a team got to the rim more than they normally do, which is not all that much.

The Blazers are a bottom-six team in the league when it comes to shots inside the restricted area. And they took 3 more attempts than their average. Batum getting to the rim, where he has been an excellent finisher the last few seasons, can only help Portland’s offense. Lillard has been very aggressive going to the rim and is having a career year at the rim. But Batum may be the team’s best finisher and even if his shot comes back, Batum should look to get into the lane first. The Blazers also don’t go to the foul-line very much and Batum’s attacks can only help generate more.

Notes:

  • I said Chris Kaman’s game last night didn’t look as bad as it was. Tonight he was every bit as good as his statline said. He was looking for his shot early and was a beast on the boards like he was in November. Kaman scored 16 points and had six assists playing a little more extended minutes thanks to Freeland’s foul trouble all night long. Robinson also hit his midrange J in addition to his highlight dunks.
  • Freeland was one of the reasons why Davis had a tough night. Every Blazer who guarded him made him work and he had his lowest scoring game of the season. Monty Williams didn’t play him in the second half and once he took out Ryan Anderson he basically threw in the towel. With the Blazers leading by 32 after 3, you can’t really blame him. The Pelicans were also 3-for-15 from deep. Tyreke Evans, who has played well against the Blazers in the past for the Pelicans, had a rough night going 2-for-12.
  • Steve Blake continues to show up and do what the Blazers need to do every night. Especially without Lopez, it’s hard to imagine where the Blazers would be without the ball handling, playmaking and tenacity of Blake.
  • The Blazers four healthy starters didn’t play a minutes in the fourth quarter. Meyers Leonard and Will Barton both saw action. Leonard launched from 3 and had a nice dunk on a roll. Barton was aggressive. Portland also had a lot of trouble scoring in the fourth. They were scoreless for the first 5:25 of the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum continues to work his way back after returning from injury. He was 0-for-5 but it looks like he’s still shaking off the rust.
  • Dorell Wright got a DNP-CD after being a literal game-changer in Friday’s win over the Spurs. Stotts just keeps us all guessing.
  • The Blazers have a day off before they go to Houston for a rematch of last year’s first round playoff series. They play the Rockets on Monday. The next two games will be brutal but this trip already looks like a success.

 

 

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on ESPN.com's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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