Trail Blazers-Hornets Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers are riding high after routing the Western Conference's best team.
Portland, though, can't get too overconfident after what happened in its last game in New Orleans.
The Blazers will try to win for the fifth time in seven games on Sunday night when they complete the season series with the lowly Hornets.
After opening their three-game trip Wednesday with a 91-85 loss to Memphis, the Trail Blazers (29-32) defeated the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs 136-106 on Friday. It was the most points by an opponent at AT&T Center and the Spurs' second-worst home loss in franchise history.
The result was even more surprising considering San Antonio was 25-3 at home and Portland had lost seven straight and 11 of 12 outside the Rose Garden.
"To come in here and win is hard enough,'' said Blazers coach Terry Stotts, whose team set season highs for points and shooting percentage at 61.6. "To do it in that fashion is pretty remarkable.''
That's a great description of Damian Lillard's play. The favorite to win the Rookie of the Year leads all first-year players in scoring (18.8 ppg), assists (6.4) and 3-pointers with 134. Lillard hit three 3s and poured in 35 on Friday to extend his career-best streak of scoring at least 20 to five. The sixth overall pick also handed out nine assists with no turnovers.
"I think this does rank up there (with my better performances), just because we needed this win," Lillard told the Blazers' official website.
Portland - currently 10th in the West - has little room for error, so it needs to take care of a Hornets team with the worst record in the conference at 21-42 after dropping three straight and eight of 10.
New Orleans, though, won 99-63 over the visiting Blazers on Feb. 13 the last time these teams met. Led by Anthony Davis' 21 points and 11 rebounds, the Hornets ended a five-game skid in this series and handed Portland its most lopsided defeat since a 121-79 loss at New York on March 14.
The Hornets, who last dropped four straight from Jan. 29-Feb. 2, are hoping for another big effort from Davis, who's averaging 16.7 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in three games since missing two with a left shoulder sprain.
The No. 1 overall pick, who had 20 points and a season-high 18 boards in Saturday's 96-85 loss at Memphis, totaled 15 and five in a 95-94 loss at Portland on Dec. 16.
Lillard's 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left was the difference in that contest, but the Hornets have held him to 28 points and eight assists in the two games.
Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez averaged 16.5 points, 9.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in those games, but he likely won't be joined in the backcourt by Austin Rivers after the rookie suffered a broken right hand in a 108-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday when New Orleans blew a 25-point lead.
The Blazers, meanwhile, have received a big boost from Eric Maynor since he was acquired from Oklahoma City on Feb. 21. The backup point guard has 42 points in the last three games after finishing with 20 on Friday.
Portland is averaging 108.8 points in Maynor's six games.
The Trail Blazers had won two straight and five of seven in New Orleans prior to Feb. 13.