Pelicans.com postgame: Blazers 111, Pelicans 103
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
With Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge sidelined by a back injury, both teams had one All-Star player on the floor Friday, representing the two best draft picks from the 2012 class. Neither disappointed. On one side, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis posted his career high in scoring, piling up 36 points. On the other, Blazers guard Damian Lillard authored yet another ultra-clutch performance in crunch time against New Orleans, pouring in a whopping 16 points in the final 5:53.
The late-game heroics by Lillard ultimately enabled Portland (43-23) to prevail despite Davis’ monster individual outing, the fifth consecutive game that the second-year pro has scored at least 28 points. That five-game consistency tied the franchise record for games with 28-plus points, equaling a mark set by Glen Rice in the 1990s.
“He’s showing the player that he is, can be and will be,” said Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts, who added 19 points and five assists. “When he’s aggressive and just focused and locked in, that’s the kind of production you’re going to get, night in and night out. He understands that now. He’s showing his level of talent. He’s carrying us.”
New Orleans (26-39) led 94-89 midway through the fourth quarter, before Lillard shifted into takeover mode offensively. The NBA’s 2012-13 Rookie of the Year winner did not miss a shot from the field or foul line during his six-minute eruption, including sinking a pair of back-breaking three-pointers. His biggest shot came with 1:18 remaining, a deep trey to put the Blazers ahead 107-100. Lillard enabled Portland to end its four-game losing streak, a stretch that had begun to put its hold on the No. 5 spot in the West in jeopardy.
“We stuck together at the end of the game and came up with some big shots late,” said Blazers forward Dorell Wright, who filled in as a starter for Aldridge. “Our players knew how to keep calm and play the way we had been practicing.”
“We were kind of trading baskets the whole second half,” Roberts said. “We knew coming out of halftime that they were going to be aggressive, especially (Lillard). We couldn’t find a way to get consecutive stops. Down the stretch, he was making plays. That was the difference.”
Behind a memorable Davis game and a near-triple-double from Tyreke Evans (16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists), the Pelicans were in position to beat the Blazers for the second time in three tries this season. Evans, who sank a game-winning mid-range jumper against Portland on Dec. 30, returned from missing Wednesday’s game due to illness and had one of his best all-around showings. Eric Gordon, who also sat out Wednesday with the same ailment, tallied 16 points vs. the Blazers.
Davis, who scored exactly 18 points in both halves, powered New Orleans to a 55-53 lead at intermission Friday, relying on an array of accurate jump shots and athletic dunks. The Pelicans still maintained a narrow edge through three quarters at 81-80. Just three days after celebrating his 21st birthday, Davis was an efficient 15-for-27 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots.
“He’s just locked in, focused,” said Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow, using nearly the exact same description as Roberts. “He’s a dynamic player at both ends of the floor. Obviously, he’s a special talent. The attention he brings, he’s kind of a hybrid, new-age type of power forward. He’s quick and has some guard skills. He’s really a matchup problem every game.”
For his part, Davis didn’t want to dwell on his career-best offensive game, saying it was little consolation in a loss. New Orleans was outscored 31-22 in the fourth quarter and allowed Portland to make 14 three-pointers.
“I don’t care about that,” Davis said of his 36-point game. “I only care about winning. We lost, so all that (individual statistic discussion) is just for you (media). We just didn’t get the (defensive) stops. We can’t let them score 30-something points in one quarter. We can’t allow that in the fourth. We just have to get stops in crunch-time situations.”