The Portland Trail Blazers made a crucial step in their quest for the third seed in the Western Conference on Tuesday night in New Orleans, beating the host Pelicans by a final score of 107-103. Portland is now 3.5 games ahead of the Pelicans in the standings, and evened the season series at two games apiece.
On a night when both teams struggled mightily from three-point land, the Pelicans jumped out to a lead in the third quarter and looked to run away with the game. However, Anthony Davis went down with an apparent ankle injury midway through the third, halting the team’s momentum. Though Davis eventually returned to the game to a standing ovation, the Blazers were able to take advantage and get back in the game, eventually taking the lead in the fourth quarter. The last few minutes of the game featured a thrilling, mano a mano between the two team’s respective MVP candidates—Damian Lillard and a hobbled Davis.
Dame was able to gain the upper hand, putting the team on his back and willing the Blazers to victory. The Pelicans had a couple of opportunities at the go-ahead three in the game’s closing seconds, but E’twaun Moore couldn’t get either shot to fall and the Blazers escaped with the win.
Lillard led all scorers with 41 points and also contributed nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. Jusuf Nurkic gave Portland 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and Evan Turner had 14 points and six assists, stepping in for an injured Maurice Harkless.
Davis led the Pelicans with 36 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks, and Jrue Holiday had a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Here are some takeaways from tonight’s game:
- Rough start. Both teams struggled shooting the ball in the first half. The Blazers shot just 37% from the field and 29% from three, while the Pelicans shot a dismal 18% from distance. The Pelicans actually did worse in the second half, finishing the game 17% from three-point land.
- Dame time. Lillard scored 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter alone. He shot 18-33 from the field, much needed on a night his backcourt mate CJ McCollum struggled mightily shooting the ball, finishing just 3-19 for the night.
- Down but not out. Davis, who looked to suffer a serious injury in the third quarter, returned mere minutes later to a thunderous ovation from the Pelicans faithful. Though clearly not 100%, he showed exactly why he too is an MVP candidate, and was a big reason the Pelicans won both the rebound (54-47) and points in the paint (60-56) battles tonight.
- Block party. The two teams combined for 17 blocks on the game, with Davis (6) and Nurkic (4) getting the lion’s share.
- Active hands. The Blazers had 11 steals for the game, to New Orleans’ three. Lillard had four, Al-Farouq Aminu had three and Shabazz Napier had two.
- Big news! Two stories broke shortly after the game: Harkless is getting an arthroscopic procedure on his knee, and Damian Lillard is flying home for the birth of his son. Obviously, neither will play in tomorrow night’s game.
Chief with the steal, Dame with the dunk pic.twitter.com/XZOi5tGCCY— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 28, 2018
The Blazers travel up the Mississippi River to Memphis tomorrow to take on the Grizzlies.