Blazers try to slow down hot Pelicans
PORTLAND, Ore. — The New Orleans Pelicans are on a roll. The Portland Trail Blazers are not.
Much has changed since the teams met a week ago at the Smoothie King Center in New Orelans.
The Pelicans (6-10) won that one 113-101, beginning a four-game win streak they hope to increase by one Friday night when they visit Moda Center to face Portland. New Orleans, which has won six of its last eight games after an 0-8 start, blasted Minnesota 117-96 Wednesday night behind 45 points from Anthony Davis.
The Trail Blazers (8-9) lost four of five games on their recent road trip, falling below .500 for the first time this season.
The return of point guard Jrue Holiday — who missed the first eight games while helping care for wife Lauren, who has a brain tumor — has helped the Pelicans. But the biggest factor has been a team-first attitude. They averaged 28.5 assists during the four-game skein, second in the NBA over that period.
“That's how we win games,” Davis, who scored 26 of his points in the first half against the Timberwolves, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We just move the ball and share the basketball no matter who scores. There are times we have a good shot and we pass it to someone for a great shot.
“That's been our M.O. the past couple of games. Pass up a good shot for a great shot and that has helped guys build confidence in their games. We're playing a good brand of basketball right now.”
Starting point guard Tim Frazier — who spent parts of two seasons with Portland — said the Pelicans cannot get complacent.
“Four in a row is nice, but we still have a long season to go,” Frazier said. “We have to come out and play the same way we've been playing. Be hungry.”
The Blazers are no longer the NBA's worst rebounding club — the addition of power forward Ed Davis to the starting lineup four games ago has helped that. But they are the league's worst-rated defensive team, and that is not getting better. On the recent trip, the Blazers were lit up by Houston's James Harden (26 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists), Davis (38 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals) and New York's Kristaps Porzingis (31 points, nine rebounds).
Then there was the 137-125 pasting at Cleveland Wednesday night, the most points a Portland team yielded in a regulation game since 1989. LeBron James recorded a triple-double and Kevin Love scored 34 of his 40 points in the first quarter — the most an NBA player scored in a first period.
“I don't think it's that we don't have the personnel (to play defense),” point guard Damian Lillard, who had 40 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds against the Cavaliers, told Comcast Sports Northwest. “It's that we have to lock in on certain areas and understand that's what allows you to be a good defender. Like having an idea what is coming.
“It starts in your mind. You have to believe you can turn it around and that you want to. But we also have to demand more of each other. As a group, that's what should be on our mind — thinking how we can improve and bring more to the team and get us going in the right direction. That's part of holding us accountable.”