The Portland Trail Blazers caught fire against a New Orleans Pelicans team that was without MVP candidate Anthony Davis on Thursday night. Damian Lillard scored 26 points and the Blazers shot 53 percent from three to finish the shootout with a 132-119 victory.
Early Fire Power
With Anthony Davis on the sidelines, the advantage the Pelicans had over Portland on the interior dwindled to almost nothing. Well, not quite. Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle feasted inside the lane, dominating from the tip. New Orleans kept a comfortable advantage throughout the game in both rebounds and points in the paint (+8 boards, +20 paint scoring). Portland countered by cooking from deep. The appetizer came with Curry Sauce. Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas each hit a pair of 3’s in the first half to support three more first quarter bombs from Damian Lillard and the Blazers were feasting. Portland ended up the first half hitting 10 of 16 from distance, owning a 70-65 lead heading into the break.
Nurkic Holding it down
Though the Blazers stayed hot in the second half, they struggled to pull away. Portland couldn’t get anything going at the rim offensively (or protect it on the other end). Credit goes to Jusuf Nurkic to making the difference in both areas. As the game wore on, Nurk started to look like a defensive anchor after struggling to slow down the Pelicans’ bigs early. His ability to contain his man while showing on the Pelican guards coincided with Blazers pulling away. On the offensive end, Nurkic was able to use his size to punish smaller defenders. He was responsible for 4 of the Blazers 8 offensive rebounds and 12 of 38 points in the paint.
It feels good to be able to praise Portland’s bench game after game. Tonight was no exception. Zach Collins, Evan Turner, Caleb Swanigan, and the Curry Sauce duo all gave the team strong, efficient minutes and helped push the lead when the outcome teetered in the third quarter. Portland’s reserves chipped in 50 total points, a much needed weapon for this team. Also, congratulations to Anfernee Simons for his first career NBA basket: a sweet 10-footer in the key. It looked smooth. Here’s to many more.
Portland had great energy from start to finish and shot the lights out. 18-35 from deep is incredible. Aside from first-half Julius Randle, New Orleans looked a little gassed. They laid down when Portland got rolling in the third. The absence of Anthony Davis was certainly noticeable. The standings don’t care though. CJ McCollum’s unspectacular outing continues his early-season streak, which is one of Portland’s few concerns at this point. Overall this was a very good revenge win, even without Davis.
The Blazers will play LeBron James and the Lakers at home this Saturday.