After stealing the first two games on the road, the New Orleans Pelicans came home and routed the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the world by going on the road and winning the first two games of their series against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pelicans came home brimming with confidence for Game 3, and they put on a clinic in a 119-102 victory that has them on the brink of the second round.
The game was competitive for the first half of the first quarter before New Orleans blew the game open and never looked back. The Pelicans closed the opening frame on a 20-4 run over the last 6:47 to take a 16-point advantage.
The margin didn’t get to single digits the rest of the way.
Every time it looked like the Blazers may go on a run to make things interesting, the Pelicans made a run of their own to extend their lead back out. New Orleans avoided the complacency that can often plague teams with a big lead.
The Pelicans submitted plenty of awesome highlights as they ran their biggest lead up to 33 points, with Anthony Davis at the center of the most awe-inspiring ones. Behold a bunch of Brow dunks:
This game was so ugly the Blazers waved the white flag with about eight minutes to play, giving both teams extended garbage time that meant Jordan Crawford launching a bunch of 3-pointers.
The Pelicans were a buzzsaw on both ends. The Pelicans played as close to a perfect game as a team can play. They shot 52.9 percent overall and over 40 percent from 3. They scored 62 points in the paint. They pushed the pace and racked up 32 fastbreak points. They flustered Damian Lillard again and forced 24 Blazers turnovers, turning those miscues into 35 points.
New Orleans has won eight straight games going back to the regular season and are peaking at the right time.
Davis had a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds to go along with three steals and two blocks as part of another outstanding defensive effort. Rajon Rondo had a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists. Jrue Holiday was great again with 16 points, seven assists and three steals. E’Twaun Moore had a quiet scoring game, but his perimeter defense was as stout as it has been all series.
And then there’s Nikola Mirotic.
The Mirotic trade continues to pay off. The Pelicans needed to make an upgrade after the DeMarcus Cousins injury, and they decided to acquire Mirotic from the Chicago Bulls. Mirotic was inconsistent at first after the trade, but since he shaved his bushy beard at the tail end of the regular season he has played at an All-Star level.
Mirotic played arguably his best game yet in Game 3. He torched Jusuf Nurkic from the opening tip and scored 14 points in the first quarter. Mirotic finished with a playoff-career high 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting. He made four 3-pointers, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out two assists.
Mirotic hasn’t just been great on offense. He has also raised his game on the defensive end. He fights hard and makes plays. He recorded three steals on Thursday and had one sequence where he blocked a shot, contested the follow-up shot and then buried a 3-pointer on the other end within a matter of seconds. The 27-year-old has it clicking and has helped take the Pelicans to another level.
The Blazers look finished. The Blazers needed to make a stand in Game 3, and instead, they got run off the floor. They were sloppy and lethargic against the Pelicans’ onslaught. Portland simply had no answers on Thursday.
It has been a nightmare series for Lillard. He scored 20 points in this one, but he shot just 5 of 14 from the field and committed a whopping eight turnovers. He hasn’t been able to find a rhythm with the Pelicans’ aggressive perimeter defense hounding him, plus the specter of Davis looming at the rim.
CJ McCollum had a better shooting game with 22 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 21 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
No team in NBA history has ever come back to win a series after losing the first three games, and it sure doesn’t look like the Blazers are going to be that first team. New Orleans looks like the far better team. A sweep could lead to some interesting decisions this summer as Portland tries to figure out how to take the next step.