After a heart-crushing defeat to a Chris Bosh three on Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers looked to bounce back against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight. Sadly, they dropped their second in a row for the first time this season, with the final score reading 110-108 in favor of the Pelicans. Lillard led the Blazers with 29 points, but was surprisingly outscored by the Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday, who finished with 31. LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 28 as well.
Portland was paced by Aldridge in the first, who chipped in nine points and a board, while his counterpart Anthony Davis of the Pelicans likewise contributed nine points. During the second, the Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans erupted for 11, but was luckily outpaced by the Lillard himself, who went off for 12 in the period.
The Pelicans remained in control for most of the game, even leading by as many as thirteen, before a Nicolas Batum free throw tied it up at 98 with five and half minutes remaining. From there on out, it was back and forth until a bad bounce with 55 seconds left rolled directly to Jrue Holliday, who calmly drilled a three to give the Pelicans a four-point lead. Wesley Matthews was left visibly frustrated by the unfortunate turn of events, which left the Blazers in a nearly unrecoverable position.
You can never count out the late-game Lillard magic, though, and after a questionable call that changed a Pelicans three-pointer to a two, Lillard icily nailed a deep 27 footer to knot the game up at 108 with ten seconds left. The euphoria was short-lived, however, as Tyreke Evans ran down the other end and just as calmly nailed a jumper over Mo Williams with a second left. Head Coach Terry Stotts’ late-game knack for drawing up plays wasn’t what it has been, and the final, chaotic, broken play left Aldridge with a shot that had no chance of going in.
The Blazers have certainly taken their share of criticism for allowing points in the paint, but tonight was unacceptable. Through three quarters the Blazers had conceded an astounding 62 points in the paint (to only 26 for themselves). To demonstrate how poor this is, the Blazers average allowing 48.6 points in the paint per game, which is still worst in the NBA. It’s a tall order for any team to win when the other team has so many easy shots.
While it is the Blazers’ bread and butter, the team was oftentimes also too willing to settle for threes, with frequently little effort made to try to get into the key. The Blazers finished the game with 32 three point attempts, well above their season average of 25. In better news, after an utterly disastrous 19 turnovers against the Heat, the Blazers limited themselves to only nine tonight, a vast improvement.
In perhaps the most unexpected stat of the night, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans blocked five shots (par for the course for him), but was still behind Robin Lopez, who blocked six himself. The Blazers will look to end their losing skid tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. PST against a Russell Westbrook-less Thunder, in Oklahoma City.