January 19, 2021

Postgame wrap: Pelicans 128, Trail Blazers 115

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.

STAT LEADERS
Trail Blazers

Points

  • CJ McCollum – 27 Pts
  • Carmelo Anthony – 20 Pts
  • Hassan Whiteside – 19 Pts

Rebounds

  • Hassan Whiteside – 12 Reb
  • Trevor Ariza – 8 Reb
  • CJ McCollum – 6 Reb

Assists

  • CJ McCollum – 10 Ast
  • Hassan Whiteside – 2 Ast
  • Trevor Ariza – 2 Ast

Blocks

  • Hassan Whiteside – 6 Blk
  • Trevor Ariza – 1 Blk

Steals

  • Anfernee Simons – 3 Stl
  • Trevor Ariza – 2 Stl
Pelicans

Points

  • Zion Williamson – 25 Pts
  • Jrue Holiday – 20 Pts
  • Brandon Ingram – 16 Pts

Rebounds

  • Josh Hart – 13 Reb
  • Derrick Favors – 12 Reb
  • Nicolo Melli – 5 Reb

Assists

  • Jrue Holiday – 9 Ast
  • Lonzo Ball – 7 Ast
  • Brandon Ingram – 6 Ast

Blocks

  • Lonzo Ball – 1 Blk
  • Josh Hart – 1 Blk

Steals

  • Jrue Holiday – 4 Stl
  • Lonzo Ball – 1 Stl

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).”

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Portland got within nine points of the lead but then went through a dry spell during a stretch of the fourth quarter, watching New Orleans regain control at 124-105 on a Derrick Favors three-point opportunity. Favors’ hoop from the doorstep sent a segment of the Moda Center crowd to the exits, acknowledging that defeat was imminent.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Zion Williamson set the tone for Friday’s road trip opener by powering his way to 19 first-half points, as the Pelicans went in front 73-63. Among the rookie’s seven baskets prior to intermission, all of them came on dunks and layups, as he overwhelmed Portland’s interior defense. Williamson finished with 25 points on 10/17 shooting from the field.

Williamson credited the Pelicans’ teamwork for creating easier opportunities and boosting the team overall. “Everybody’s unselfish,” he said. “We always make the extra pass. It’s great for us. As long as we keep those big-assist numbers up, we’ll be fine.”

BY THE NUMBERS

36: New Orleans assists, part of a span in February that has featured numerous high-assist outings. Despite not playing for eight days, the Pelicans did not look rusty at all in their first game after the All-Star hiatus. “Our chemistry is getting better and better,” Melli said. “It shows on the court. It could’ve been a risk (of losing momentum) because we were playing good before the All-Star break, but I think we proved that we can keep rolling.”

16/28: New Orleans foul shooting in the first half. Although the Pelicans would’ve preferred to make them at a higher rate, they established their presence immediately Friday by constantly taking the ball to the hoop.

10-3: Pelicans road record since Dec. 23, one of the best stretches in franchise history in terms of away-game performance.

#FANFRIDAY

With No. 8 Memphis losing Thursday at Sacramento in the “easiest” game on paper for the Grizzlies during their own simultaneous Western Conference road trip, it raised the distinct possibility that New Orleans could gain ground over the next few days on eighth place, despite spending that timeframe away from the Smoothie King Center. In a poll prior to Friday’s tip-off in Oregon, fans voted for the Portland game as the most important one for New Orleans to win on this trek, in a landslide with nearly two-thirds of ballots. Next in line was Tuesday’s matchup against the Lakers at 29 percent; Sunday’s visit to Golden State received just 6 percent of votes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *