The Portland Trail Blazers (36-34) defeated the New Orleans Pelicans (25-43), 117-112. Damian Lillard led the way with 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Blazers while New Orleans had Ryan Anderson lead their team in scoring with 30 while adding seven rebounds and three assists on the night.
The Pelicans shot 48 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc on 21 attempts and lost. Don't know what to tell you about that, folks.
Actually, I do. I found New Orleans' perimeter defense to be less than spectacular. The slash brothers (I just named them that) - C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard - just created havoc for the Pelican guards, getting to the rim at any and every chance. Then, with Luke Babbitt on the floor, the Blazers made sure to attack him, too, even though Luke finished with a +3.
Portland's attack of Lillard, McCollum and Mason Plumlee were critical in pushing Portland's lead forward. Plumlee got some good looks at the basket, made a little hook and even had an impressive assist to McCollum for a finish. It was a balanced offensive performance for the Blazers, scoring 36 points in the first quarter. Portland kept the offense going in the second, going for 31 points on a blistering 52 percent shooting. The solid post-ASG offense was crumbling.
Then Anthony Davis got hurt and didn't return. We'll talk about that later (I have takes?), but the combination of Davis' injury and Portland's fireball shooting, it looked more like the Blazers were going to sprint to the finish line.
Only, that didn't happen.
The Pelicans came out hungry in the second half. Both Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday played the entire third and around them, they stabilized the defense, while leading the offense with 19 of New Orleans' 28 points. Holiday did more damage facilitating, finishing with two assists in the quarter. Meanwhile, Lillard sat and McCollum picked up his fourth and fifth fouls, pushing the Blazers to sit him, as the Pelicans made a comeback.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans were unable to make up entirely for their first half. Holiday continued his run with 12 points, including four 3-pointers in the final frame. Dante Cunningham played some good defense, varying from helping on Lillard to blanketing his man, Gerald Henderson. Alonzo Gee came in and moved some players around, but didn't exactly entice me on defense. He was fine, but could've been better.
In terms of #tankflight plans, the Pelicans got the job done tonight, maximizing their odds at ping-pong balls. They trailed in the first half, came back in the second and made it close enough without winning. All in all, that's a good job, but one day, and with AD hopefully on the floor, the Pelicans can pick up those victories in the future.
An aside before the notes, I like Noah Vonleh out there, too. He only played 12 minutes, but he got good positioning on some rebounds and had a handful of putbacks. Still just a baby at 19, but someone who could be a guy he comes along for the Blazers.
And if there was one stat that was telling for New Orleans, it was the rebounding. Portland finished with 45 boards, while the Pelicans totaled just 34. It's not a remarkable difference, but it was apparent in the first half as the Pelicans kept getting beat to the glass and out hustled. The lack of successful 50/50 balls hurt and one must wonder if New Orleans: A) had AD and B) got maybe another 50/50 ball or two, if they would've won.
The Blazers are a nice model team for the Pelicans. Around Lillard, the Blazers saw Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge all leave, while a trade shipped Nic Batum to the Queen City. The Blazers didn't panic, gave the keys to Damian and built around him with solid players in his age group. It wasn't a push for Danny Green, but giving McCollum more playing time, signing Al-Farouq Aminu and trading for Maurice Harkless. Lopez left and in came Plumlee and Ed Davis. Do something similar around AD, maybe?
Anthony Davis got hurt again. He didn't return, either. Let's hope he's fine, yeah? I think in a normal season, Davis probably sits out the rest of the year, but with Davis gunning for the $24 million addition to his contract and the Pelicans brass assisting in that effort, if AD can play, I imagine he plays. Still, I hope for 100 percent health for Davis moving forward. This injuries of various size continue to bother him. Hopefully he can get past it.
Valgus stress placed on Anthony Davis’ knee in the collison w/ McCollum. Classic mechanism of injury for MCL injury. Hope it’s not serious.— Jeff Stotts (@RotowireATC) March 19, 2016
Ryan Anderson tallied 30 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Also finished a monster dunk. That man is good. Going to be expensive this offseason, but he's really good.
I like Tim Frazier a little bit. He finished with 13 points, four assists and three rebounds. Nothing flashy. He has some faults - he often makes weird moves at or around the rim, he can't shoot and his defense isn't great, but I like that he's more of a pass-first point guard. Guys like Norris Cole and Toney Douglas just feel like point guards in stature only, whereas Frazier feels like a good point guard who can operate the offense against second units. I'd give him a multi-year deal and hope he becomes a playable third PG, maybe even a little more.
I also like Dante Cunningham, but I need him to find that 3-pointer. He's a fine defender, who does things that do not show up on the stat sheet. Tonight, he got some rebounds when the Pelicans needed it and that was it. Again, Alvin Gentry should be pushing for this guy to get at least three 3-pointers a game and see if he can hit it with consistency. If he cannot, he's just a defender, which is fine.
Either Omer Asik got hurt and we don't know, or Alvin Gentry played Kendrick Perkins 18 minutes and watched Perkins get a big flagrant two foul in the middle of a two-point game. No need to tell you how valuable Perkins was when he left the floor...
Since Perkins' ejection, Pelicans have outscored the Blazers by 7 points.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) March 19, 2016
Shrug on Orlando Johnson not playing, but man, you need to use those 10 days and actually try to find talent, not for when you need to fill in a role. I'm sure there are some people who can take those Perkins/Gee/Babbitt minutes. Only a few games are left, so it doesn't really matter, but look at what the Suns and Nets did. The Suns have tried everyone with their 10-day contracts while the Nets recently signed Basketball Twitter darling Sean Kilpatrick and added Willie Reed.
Hate to go all #futurePelican, but man, Allen Crabbe. I like Allen Crabbe. He is questionable defensively, based on eye test, DBPM (-1.1 this season) and DRPM (-2.03) but is just 23 years old and hitting the market this summer. The Pelicans, even if they do decide to spend their 2016 first round pick on a wing player, you have enough question marks on the backend to double down. Crabbe is a knockdown shooter, who made strides in his first extended run in the NBA. In my mind, he's a top target for New Orleans this summer based on need, fit and age.