PORTLAND – In the 16 seasons that New Orleans has joined Portland as a member of the NBA’s Western Conference, the Pelicans had never swept a season series from the Trail Blazers. Until Friday.
New Orleans took control of an ESPN national game with a big third-quarter push, rapidly stretching its lead from a possession to 19 entering the final period. The Pelicans wrapped up a 4-0 regular season sweep of the Blazers and sliced the distance between the teams in the West standings to just a half game.
The visitors capitalized on the absence of All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who missed two of the four matchups vs. New Orleans this season, while improbably shooting 0/14 from three-point range in his two appearances. The Pelicans again used impressive offensive balance to beat the Blazers, with six different players compiling double-digit scoring.
Combined with Memphis’ loss Friday to the Lakers, the Pelicans have cut 1.5 games off their deficit behind the eighth-place Grizzlies just two days into the second-half schedule. They are now four games back of their Southwest Division counterparts.
“We knew it was a very important game,” forward Nicolo Melli said on postgame radio. “We played a very solid game. The run for the last spot in the playoffs, it’s very important to have this (sweep over Portland).”