Trail Blazers Vs. Pelicans Preview
April 6, 2014
By NOEY KUPCHAN
The Portland Trail Blazers seemed to be back on track before taking a big step backward last time out.
A visit from the last-place New Orleans Pelicans could help them bounce back.
The Trail Blazers go for a sixth consecutive home win over the Pelicans, who could be without leading scorer Anthony Davis on Sunday night.
Portland (49-28) is likely headed for its first playoff berth since 2011 as it sits in fifth place in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of Golden State and three in front of Dallas. The Blazers had won four straight by an average of 12.7 points, including three road wins and three over playoff contenders, before getting outplayed in Friday's 109-93 home loss to Phoenix.
Portland, held to 13 fourth-quarter points, was outscored 48-32 in the paint and 24-6 in transition while getting outrebounded 59-48. LaMarcus Aldridge, leading the team with 23.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, managed just 18 and seven.
Former Pelicans center Robin Lopez had 18 points, 13 boards and four blocks.
"I thought for the most part they just outhustled and outworked us," said Lopez, whose team allowed 23 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points. "We did a good job of the initial possessions but you have to close it out. ... Any NBA team is going to put the ball in the bucket when they get that many opportunities."
Portland has taken two of three from the Pelicans (32-44) this season, with its only loss coming 110-108 in New Orleans on Tyreke Evans' jumper with one second left Dec. 30. The Blazers have allowed just 92.8 points per game during their five-game home winning streak in the series.
The Pelicans haven't won in Portland since 2010, and they could have an especially hard time keeping up if Davis can't go. The second-year standout hasn't finished either of the team's last two games due to back spasms, leaving in the fourth quarter of Friday's 100-96 loss at Utah.
"He wanted to play and I just said no," coach Monty Williams said of Davis, averaging 20.9 points and 10.1 boards. "We're not in the playoffs. Every game for me is a championship game, but I've got to be smart."
Davis hasn't scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The Pelicans have lost six of seven when he plays but doesn't score at least 15 points, and they've dropped five straight when he sits out altogether.
Anthony Morrow stayed hot Friday with 26 points off the bench and Brian Roberts added 18, but they were the only two Pelicans to score more than 10. New Orleans let the conference-worst Jazz shoot over 50.0 percent for the first time since Feb. 26.
"Just a bad game from us as a team, collectively," said Williams, whose team has dropped three straight and 12 of 15 away from home. "We certainly can't play like that on the road against any team."
Morrow has provided a spark of late, posting at least 20 points in four of the last six games. He's averaging 19.8 during that stretch, compared to his season mark of 8.0.
Davis has averaged 28.0 points versus the Blazers this season and 23.0 for his career, tied for his highest mark against any team.
Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is averaging 28.3 points while shooting 51.8 percent against New Orleans in 2013-14.