With the absence of star guard Damian Lillard, New Orleans finally managed to package back-to-back wins on top of a 115-104 victory over the undermanned Portland Trail Blazers – dampening the season debut of 10-time NBA all-star Carmelo Anthony.
Portland held on to a narrow lead throughout the majority of the first half. The Pelicans remained competitive despite shooting under 40 percent from the field and just over 35 percent behind the arc across the first two quarters. Eight Pels turnovers compared to just 10 assists didn’t work in their favor, either. But still, it was just a one-point deficit at the half.
To create the separation needed, a couple of quiet contributors made their presence heard in the third frame. Rookie forward Nicolo Melli had a 12-point outburst in the third alongside JJ Redick’s trio of three-point makes (despite missing his first two attempts on the evening). Throw in a deep Nickeil Alexander-Walker shot at the buzzer and New Orleans took control with a nine-point gap.
Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday essentially closed the game out from there with eight and seven points in the fourth quarter, respectively. Ingram, who returned to the Pelicans lineup after missing four straight games, finished with 21 points, seven boards and five assists. Holiday posted his third 20-plus game over the last four with 22 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
“I thought [Ingram] played okay,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s just got a whole other level he can get to when his timing and everything is back. But when him and Jrue are out there playing at a real high level, then it gives us an opportunity.”
Kenrich Williams walked out of the building with his fourth double-digit rebounding game of the season at 14 boards paired with eight points on the night. Meanwhile, E’Twaun Moore contributed double-digit scoring figures for the fifth straight contest. Rookie Jaxson Hayes put up nine points and seven boards while also swatting three shots for the second-straight game.
In his welcome back to the NBA and to the Portland Trail Blazers, Carmelo Anthony scored 10 points on 14 shots, grabbed four rebounds and committed five turnovers. Anthony isn’t quite sure what to expect going forward, but he’s confident this time everything won’t be the same.
“I don’t think anybody knows what’s gonna happen this year,” Anthony said. “I come into this game now with a totally different mindset, a totally different motivation. The way that I see it – not just the game of basketball – but overall the way that I approach it is totally different. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
New Orleans has now won three straight at home, with the chance to make it four against the Los Angeles Lakers next Wednesday when Anthony Davis comes back to town. Until then, the Pelicans face a difficult three-game road swing with the Suns, Jazz and Clippers all in line. Holiday was sure to embrace the importance of this win prior to taking on the upcoming stretch.
“It’s big,” Holiday said. “For one, just to protect home court. To get one here and kind of get that good feeling before you leave on a road trip – and a tough road trip at that. We just have to go out there with that confidence and try to win the road trip.”