Lillard Helps Blazers Beat Pelicans 132-119
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — While the Trail Blazers found it easy to score against the Pelicans, in the end it was their defense — and some stops in the fourth quarter — that helped Portland pull away.
Damian Lillard scored 26 points to help Portland beat New Orleans 132-119 on Thursday night in the first meeting between the teams since the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers in the first round of last season's playoffs.
Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who made 18 3-pointers in their third straight win.
New Orleans, hurt by the absence of star Anthony Davis, dropped its fourth consecutive game. The Pelicans were the sixth seed last season when they upset the third-seeded Blazers in the playoffs.
"Tonight we came out and it was easy on offense, so it seemed like we kind of just fell into that trap, where we're going to be able to score and hoping they miss instead of going out there and making them miss, and taking the challenge. And seeing that Anthony Davis wasn't out there, you take those situations for granted. And they made us pay for it early," Lillard said. "I think we showed our maturity and growth in how we rebounded and adjusted and made the changes we needed to make."
Julius Randle scored 29 points, but Pelicans star Davis was sidelined by a right elbow sprain. Davis had returned from the injury Wednesday night against Golden State, when he collected 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a 131-121 loss to the Warriors.
Davis leads New Orleans with 25.2 points and 13 rebounds per game. He was replaced in the starting lineup against the Blazers by Jahlil Okafor.
The Blazers were home after a 3-1 trip that included victories at Orlando, Indiana and Houston.
Portland was without Maurice Harkless because of a lingering left knee injury. Harkless has played in five of the Blazers' eight games this season.
Lillard had 10 points in the first quarter and the Blazers led 35-31. The Pelicans were paced by Randle, who had 23 points in the first half before he collected three fouls and went back to the bench.
Seth Curry's 3-pointer gave the Blazers a 51-44 advantage. E'Twaun Moore's 3-pointer got the Pelicans within three late in the half, but the Blazers led 70-65 at the break.
Moore's floater got the Pelicans as close as 65-64 in the third quarter but Portland held New Orleans off until Randle's jumper and Nikola Mirotic's free throw tied it at 90. Portland hit consecutive 3-pointers to end the threat.
The Blazers outscored the Pelicans 30-20 in the final quarter.
"The first three quarter of the game we gave ourselves a chance, then the fourth quarter we didn't score as well and we didn't get the stops when we needed them," Randle said.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Portland in his third double-double this season. The Blazers' reserves scored 50 points.
Mirotic finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans, and Jrue Holiday also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists.
Pelicans: Davis warmed up with his teammates before the game. ... In his pregame talk with reporters, Alvin Gentry shot down reports of a confrontation the night before with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. "It couldn't be further from the truth," Gentry said, characterizing the conversation as friendly.
Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts was coaching his 500th game for the Blazers. ... Portland's franchise high for 3-pointers is 21. ... Portland's point total was a season high. ... The Blazers scored 30-plus points in every quarter.
ABOUT THOSE THREES: The Pelicans had eight 3-pointers compared to Portland's 18.
"We've gotta get guys off the line, you know? The point differential is 30 points from the 3-point line," Gentry said. "I mean, we dominate in the paint, we shoot more free throws, but it's really, really difficult to make up a 30-point deficit from three. So we've got to get them off the line and make a few more of our own."
Pelicans: Visit the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
Trail Blazers: Host LeBron James and the Lakers on Saturday.