The Portland Trail Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans opened their best-of-seven series Saturday night at the Moda Center. It was almost all Pelicans.
Some of the keys for the Portland Trail Blazers in their match-up with the New Orleans Pelicans:
- Grab more rebounds than New Orleans. They did: 52-49.
- Make a lot of threes. They did not, shooting just 12/39 (31 percent), and much of that came far too late.
- Contain — as much as possible — the uncontainable Anthony Davis. Uh, yeah — that’s a big NO. Davis finished with 35 points on 14/26 shooting, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
We know how it ended. But let’s look at some highlights.
Pelicans-Blazers First Half
The Blazers got off to a 10-6 lead with 6:54 left in the first. This was due to some solid three-point shooting and rebounding.
But the Pelicans came storming back to take a 13-12 lead on a Nikola Mirotic reverse lay in. And with 2:36 left in the first quarter, New Orleans had a 17-16 lead.
And the Pelicans kept that lead; they were up 21-18 after one.
The second quarter had a little different look to it.
This unit gave the Blazers the lead, which is an encouraging sign as the Blazers — hopefully — go deep into the playoffs. With 6:29 left in the half, Portland was up 32-29.
Unfortunately for Portland, their three-point shooting started to take a nose dive.
This was part of an overall poor-shooting first half for both teams. But the Pelicans did go on a little run while the Blazers went ice cold and started to turn the ball over.
And it didn’t get much better. With the help of a 14-0 run, the Pelicans had the lead at halftime.
Pelicans-Blazers Second Half
We had a suggestion.
They didn’t do that. And the Pelicans extended their lead to 55-42.
CJ McCollum didn’t hit a shot until 8:47 left in the third quarter.
And it got worse and worse and worse and worse.
With 3:30 left in the third, the Pelicans were up 69-52.
And Nurkic was nowhere to be found.
But then Damian Lillard hit a three, and Zach Collins hit a three, and at the start of the final quarter, the Pelicans’ lead had been cut to 12 points, 75-63.
But then … Portland turned the ball over on two straight possessions.
The Blazers pulled within seven points with 9:07 left to play on a Lillard three; it was 77-70.
But, um …
It was 86-72 Pelicans.
But then good things started to happen for Portland again … for a little while.
And with a chance to take the lead, Lillard drove hard to the basket and then — rather than trying to finish the drive — he hesitated, hoping to draw a foul that never came.
Davis hit two free throws at the other end. And with 12.4 seconds left, the Blazers had one more chance.
And they passed the ball in the lane to Meyers Leonard — who had just entered the game. He had the ball knocked out of his hands and out of bounds.
That was a bit of a head-scratcher.
Then on the next play, the ball went to Pat Connaughton who was blocked at the rim by Jrue Holiday.
Everything too little, too late for Portland on Saturday night.
After a meaningless three from CJ, the final score was Pelicans 97, Blazers 92.
And there went the home-court advantage we were all so worried about.
Lillard finished with 18 points (on 6/23 field goals), seven rebounds and seven assists. McCollum also shot poorly (7/18) and had just 19 points. Jusuf Nurkic scored 11 points to go with 11 rebounds. Evan Turner finished with 13 points and was the Blazers’ most effective scorer for long stretches of the game.
Rajon Rondo finished with 17 assists for New Orleans.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.