The Trail Blazers battled foul trouble the entire game, but were able to rely on a strong performance from LaMarcus Aldridge to defeat the Pelicans 100-94. Aldridge finished with a game-high 25 points, a game-high 18 rebounds, and a game-high 4 blocks (tied with Anthony Davis). It was his best all-around performance in quite some time and will hopefully be reproduced in the upcoming playoffs. With their 50th win of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers have guaranteed a playoff berth.
Aside from his own impressive talents, Aldridge was able to have such a big impact on the game for two reasons: Robin Lopez was benched for more than half the game with a risky number of fouls and Davis was visibly struggling through back pain in order to play. The opposing power forward left a variety of shots unblocked as he limited his extension. As the great ones do, he still made his mark on the game, but it was clear that the back spasms that have plagued him lately have not at all subsided.
The game, itself, was a tough one. The Trail Blazers held even through the first quarter, but the Pelicans took charge in the second. Lopez and Matthews had accrued three fouls apiece before halftime, and the Pelicans were able to take a 7-point lead in while they sat. The Trail Blazers came roaring back in the third quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 29-14, and held a wavering double-digit lead late into the fourth. The Pelicans closed the gap to 4 in the final minutes, before the Trail Blazers shut the door in less than convincing fashion.
Portland was very fortunate to secure this victory. The starters were exhausted by the end of the game and a few more minutes would have meant a different headline. Lillard (20), Matthews (21), Batum (16), and Aldridge (25) accounted for 82 of the Trail Blazers’ 100 points. Considering the New Orleans bench outscored the New Orleans starters 49 to 45, it is not surprising that Pelicans’ balanced play gave them a second wind. Portland’s foul trouble re-exposed the depth issue that could very well hinder them in a seven game series.
At the end of the day, it is nice to be able to relax with a win and a spot in the playoffs. We at home get to do that if we so choose. The team must remain focused to host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. PDT.
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