With tonight's win, the Portland Trail Blazers are officially headed back to the playoffs, their first visit since Brandon Roy's last Blazer season in 2011. As the fifth seed, they are currently expected to play the Houston Rockets, who came back to beat Denver tonight in overtime. The Blazers will attempt to reach the second round for the first time since 2000, the longest active streak amongst non-expansion teams. It's their first 50 win season since they went 50-32 in 2010.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 25 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks, and Damian Lillard's 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. They had support from Wesley Matthews (21 points, 5 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum (16 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists).
First Half: More of the same from the Phoenix game, as Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had no problems with the Blazer defense. Aldridge already had a double-double by halftime, but shot 6-16 to get there. As the Pelicans lead reached double digits on the back of easy shots in the paint and offensive rebounds, the groaning in the crowd got louder. Soon, scattered boo's rained down when Portland called timeout after 4 Blazers gave up an offensive rebound and a layup. The groans continued all the way to halftime.
New Orleans 55, Portland 48
Should Damian start flopping?
Second Half: Finally, the Blazers came to life, slowing down the Pelicans' attack, and picking up the energy at the offensive end. After a Lillard steal, he alley-ooped to Batum for the dunk and the lead. New Orleans tried to get their bearings, but the Blazers didn't give them a chance, picking up the defense for more easy scoring opportunities. Suddenly, Portland completed an 20-2 run to take a 12 point lead late in the third, but New Orleans scored late to bring the lead down to single digits.
As the fourth quarter started, Robin Lopez picked up his fifth foul on a tough call, and was called for a technical as he headed to the bench. That helped the Pelicans go on a run, but Matthews slowed them down with a step-back three, and Mo Williams restored the 10 point lead with a steal and layup. Davis returned from back spasms for New Orleans, but Portland held down an 11 point lead at the five minute mark, then again at the four and three minute marks, with neither team scoring. The Pelicans cut it to 9 with 2 minutes left, then 6 with a three-pointer at the 1:40 mark. Then another Blazer turnover gave New Orleans a layup to cut it to 4 with 1:14 left. As the crowed tightened a bit, the Blazers ran 20 seconds off the clock before Aldridge was fouled. He missed one of two. New Orleans looked like they had a layup, but Aldridge recovered and blocked it into the second row with 37 seconds left! But with 35 seconds left, they hit a jumper to cut the lead to three.
Lillard shrugged, dribbled the ball down court, let the defense set... and drove right by them all for a layup and a 5 point lead with 22 seconds left. That was the back-breaker, as Portland held on for a hard-fought win, and at least 4 extra games in the postseason.
Two full days off for the Blazers, then the Sacramento Kings are in town Wednesday night.
But stay tuned, later tonight Dave Deckard will have extended analysis of this game, and Ben Golliver will have on-site coverage in his Media Row Report.
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night:
First, a quick nod to everyone who accidentally tried to jinx this game tonight (I'm lookin' at you, Ben!). Also, thanks to everyone who participated in tonight's Gameday Thread! As always, here are the most popular comments, based on the number of Rec's from their fellow fans: