Lillard, defense key Blazers victory over Pelicans
PORTLAND — Defense was the difference for the Trail Blazers.
After struggling for the past half-dozen games, Portland had more of a complete effort in a 119-104 victory over New Orleans on Friday night. Damian Lillard scored 27 points and CJ McCollum added 24 to snap the Pelicans' four-game winning streak.
"I think what we did on the defensive end allowed us to get out in transition and move the ball, and play at the pace that we wanted to be at. It worked in our favor, once we did it consistently," Lillard said.
Lillard added 11 assists for the Blazers, who were coming off a 1-4 road trip. It was the 2,000th win in franchise history.
Anthony Davis, who went into the game ranked second in the league with an average of 31.3 points a game, led the Pelicans with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
The Blazers led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but the Pelicans closed to 105-101 on Terrance Jones' dunk and Jrue Holiday's jumper. Portland responded with an 8-0 run, capped by Maurice Harkless' reverse layup that made it 113-101, and New Orleans couldn't catch up.
"Obviously it's really good to get a win," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We've been struggling a little bit. I thought offensively we were pretty good for most of the night. Defensively, after about two minutes into the second quarter, we were good the last three quarters."
The Pelicans have rebounded after an eight-game losing streak to start the season and were coming off a 117-96 victory at home over the Timberwolves. But the win was costly because New Orleans lost Dante Cunningham in the first half because of a non-displaced right proximal fibula fracture. He will miss four to six weeks.
The four-game winning streak coincided with the return of Holiday, who missed the start of the season to care for his wife, Lauren Holiday, following the birth of their child and surgery to remove a tumor on the right side of his wife's brain. Lauren Holiday was a standout on the U.S. women's national soccer team for eight years until her retirement last year.
Holiday finished with 16 points.
Portland, coming off a 137-125 loss in Cleveland, led by eight points in the first quarter but New Orleans pulled in front by the second, taking a 38-32 lead on Holiday's 3-pointer. Portland reclaimed a 47-43 lead on consecutive baskets from Jake Layman and McCollum.
McCollum led all scorers in the first half with 19 points and the Blazers led 66-57.
The Blazers went on an 8-0 run to open the third quarter, capped by McCollum's 3-pointer that made it 74-57. Meyers Leonard's dunk and Lillard's long 3-pointer extended Portland's lead to 94-78.
"If you're going to be content to exchange baskets with this team you're probably going to struggle because they're really good offensively," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Pelicans: New Orleans players and coaches had Thanksgiving dinner at the family home of Jones, who grew up in Portland. "His family was terrific to us," Gentry said. ... The Pelicans have four players on the injured/inactive list: Tyreke Evans (right knee), Quincy Pondexter (left knee), Cunningham (right leg) and Cheick Diallo (D-League assignment).
Trail Blazers: It was Stotts' birthday. ... There was no update on the status of Al-Farouq Aminu, who has a strained left calf. ... Mason Plumlee finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. ... Portland has won 11 straight over the Pelicans at the Moda Center.
The Blazers had 23 second-chance points compared to two for New Orleans, something that was a concern to Gentry: "You give up 12 offensive rebounds and they get 23 second-chance points," he said, "that means they're scoring every time they get a rebound and that puts way too much pressure on your offense."
Besides his birthday, it was also Stotts' 191st win as coach of the Blazers. He ranks fourth in franchise history behind Jack Ramsay (435), Rick Adelman (291) and Nate McMillan (266).
Portland is the 15th NBA team to hit 2,000 wins.
Pelicans: New Orleans visits the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
Trail Blazers: Portland hosts the Houston Rockets on Sunday.