Blazers hold on after blowing 20-point lead vs. Pelicans
The Portland Trail Blazers blew a 20-point second half lead but held on to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 117-112 Friday. It was Portland’s first road win in seven chances. Lillard had a stat-sheet stuffing game of 33 points, eight rebounds and six assist while CJ McCollum played almost as well, scoring 30 points, six rebounds and four turnovers.
The performance of their two stars down the stretch helped the Blazers avoid what would have been their ugliest collapse of the season. It would have been the day’s biggest upset this side of Middle Tennessee State. Anthony Davis didn’t play in the second half thanks to a knee injury but the Pelicans still made the Blazers sweat. Thanks to a big shot by McCollum and some clutch free-throws by Lillard and Mason Plumlee, this game can just be forgotten like the rest.
The Blazers starters had what was likely their best performance in the past few weeks. Granted, the Pelicans are wounded birds struggling to stay in flight for the rest of the season. (I wrote this before the Davis injury and now I feel bad, but this has been that kind of season for New Orleans.) Early on, the Blazers were taking care of business the way they should from the very beginning. They took an early 5-4 lead but that ballooned to an 11-point advantage. At quarter, the Blazers led 36-30.
The defense wasn’t great, but it was good enough for the match-up against the Pelicans who leak points like the sinking ship they are. Davis is still a top-seven NBA player and he got points in bunches after a slow start. Ryan Anderson is an efficient scorer, who did his work as usual.
The Blazers bench did another excellent job of building on the work of their starters and outworked a Pelicans bench who are now carrying former Blazer Tim Frazier.
Then Gerald Henderson went into full Kobe-mode in the second quarter, dribbling to the basket, getting a few dribbles into his shots and getting them all with tons of space. Taking advantage of the porous Pelicans defense with several players who aren’t used to playing with each other. The lead got to as high as 20 with Henderson scoring 14 points in 13 first-half minutes. He finished with 19 points.
Then things got weird. The Pelicans came out to start the second half without Davis, who scored 19 points in the first half. Anderson started in his place but the Pelicans provided no update on what happened to Davis and why he didn’t come out to play in the 2nd half, which only added to the confusion of the situation. The Blazers broadcast may have found the play when the injury occurred to Davis’ left knee.
The Blazers pushed the lead back up to 20 early in the 3rd quarter, but the Pelicans got things to within 12.
The Blazers kept the Pelicans away at arm’s length, but it wasn’t pretty. They didn’t get their first field goal of the 4th quarter until the 8:22 mark when Al-Farouq Aminu made a driving lay-in. Then they went another 4 minutes before their next field goal. They had a lot of ugly possessions and one memorable possession thanks to Kendrick Perkins
But although the Perkins foul was extremely corny and excessively violent, the Pelicans were outworking the Blazers for most of the second half. Perkins was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul but the Pelicans kept coming. It looked as though Portland had the game in hand and the Pelicans work on the defensive end coupled with excellent play of Jrue Holiday and Anderson got them back in it. A Jrue Holiday 3-pointer gave the Pelicans a 105-103 lead with under three minutes left. Anderson and Holiday each finished with 30 points.
Holiday and ex-Blazer guard Tim Frazier both did an excellent job of pressuring the Blazers guards and forcing the ball out of their hands. The passes to Plumlee led to post-ups rather than passes to open shooters and Gerald Henderson’s shot-making didn’t provide enough relief for Portland’s stars down the stretch.
Free-throws got Portland the lead back, from Plumlee and Lillard. But Frazier answered right back with a midrange jumper to give the Pels a 107-106 lead. Two more free-throws from Plumlee gave Portland a 1-point lead and then Lillard came through with a crucial assist to McCollum who came through with an even more important 3-pointer to give Portland a 111-109 lead.
Lillard then iced the game at the line and even though the Pelicans cut it to 3 one more time the Blazers did enough to win this game and never speak of it again.
- We saw more Moe Harkless tonight than we did against the Spurs. As a result we saw a little less of Chris Kaman, which is probably for the best. Kaman did well against San Antonio but the Blazers pace with Harkless is something they should do a little bit more of to take advantage of their guards and wing depth.
- Meyers Leonard is no longer with the Blazers as he recovers from dislocating his shoulder. Leonard tweeted that he wished he was in New Orleans and has been ruled out for the remainder of the road trip.
- Ed Davis had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Other than Lillard and McCollum, Davis has been their most consistent player and deserves a little bit more 6th Man of the Year consideration than he is getting. He’s 4th in the NBA in offensive rebound rate with an effective field goal percentage of 60.1%.