For a second time on the season, the New Orleans Pelicans received a fortunate break on the schedule in the form of catching the Portland Trail Blazers without Damian Lillard, who is currently nursing a sore groin. Both times the Pels scored the victory, including tonight’s 128-113 win in which New Orleans led from wire to wire.
Right out of the gates one knew the Pelicans were going to score an abundance of points. Seven seconds into the game, Jrue Holiday recorded New Orleans first three-pointer. Through the first 7:45, the team had already tallied 29 points, with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson each notching 10. Once the teams went to the locker room at halftime, New Orleans had totaled 73 points despite missing 12 free throws.
Portland made a serious run in the middle of the third quarter, closing their deficit to 80-77, and then threatened some in the fourth, cutting New Orleans’ lead from 22 to 12, but the outcome of the game never felt in doubt.
The primary sources of New Orleans’ 128-point total came from excellent ball (36 assists on 45 makes) and player movement (19 fastbreak points), with a nice sprinkling of deadly three-point shooting (18 makes on 52.9% shooting).
Zion Williamson finished with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists. Portland tried to guard him with the much taller Hassan Whiteside but also tried to double him at other times with several smaller players. Neither strategy worked much. In fact, the biggest detriment to Zion’s game was the free throw line, in which he managed to convert only five of 10 attempts.
Jrue Holiday had a nice all-around game, posting a line of 20 points, nine assists, four threes and four steals, and his backcourt mate, Lonzo Ball, registered 15 points, seven assists, four rebounds, three threes and the game’s best plus/minus (+25).
2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram was quieter than normal, scoring 16 points on only eight shots, but his contributions were unnecessary because Josh Hart (13 points, 13 rebounds, three threes), Nicolo Melli (13 points, five rebounds, three threes) and JJ Redick (nine points) did major damage off the bench.
The Trail Blazers were led by CJ McCollum’s 27 points, but he struggled significantly in the 2nd half, scoring only seven. Whiteside finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony totaled 20 points and five rebounds.
Portland has now lost three games in a row and have fallen into a tie with the San Antonio Spurs, who knocked off the Jazz 113-104 tonight, for 9th in the Western Conference. They both trail the Grizzlies, who fell 117-105 to the Lakers, by 3.5 games, and New Orleans sits right behind, four games off the pace for the 8th seed.
Up next, the Pelicans travel to San Francisco to square off against the Warriors on Sunday evening.