It wasn’t easy (at all), but the Portland Trail Blazers bounced back from an 11-point road loss to Minnesota on Wednesday with a close-fought, 110-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
The Damian Lillard show continued in the building formerly known as the Rose Garden, as the 2nd-year guard finished with 29 points on 11 of 21 shooting, and as usual, he came up huge when the Blazers needed it most. Lillard knocked down back-to-back jumpers in the final 2 minutes, and the second of them was a 29-foot bomb of a three-pointer that gave Portland the lead for good at 106-105 with 1:27 remaining. In addition, Lillard’s +12 rating on the day was easily the best for the Blazers, and when he was off the court, it was evident that Portland was missing something.
After what has been an MVP-caliber year, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge had an “off” night, but it was bound to happen sometime. Aldridge seemed to be frustrated with the shear length of Anthony Davis at times, and his shooting touch faltered to the tune of 8-for-24 on the night. Still, Aldridge contributed 18 points and 8 rebounds, and along with a big day from Wesley Matthews (18 points, 6 rebounds) and an all-court effort from Nic Batum (11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), it was enough to support Lillard in the win.
For New Orleans, this was a tough loss, simply because they came back to grab a late lead and played very well at times. The aforementioned Anthony Davis had 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks in addition to his high-end defense on Aldridge, and Tyreke Evans added a 21-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist game off the bench. The achilles heel (figuratively) for the Pelicans was the free throw line, though, as they made just 13 of 19 in what turned out to be one of the deciding factors in the game.
Both teams should be encouraged by this result, as New Orleans flashed the ability to play with the “best of the West”, and Portland was able to fight through an off night from their best player and still grab a quality win. Damian Lillard has had a monster week, and this was a fitting conclusion.