The Portland Trail Blazers started a back-to-back road trip Monday night with a 110-108 loss to the Pelicans at New Orleans Arena.
Damian Lillard tied the game at 108-108 on a 27-foot three-pointer with 10 seconds to play. But on the ensuing possession, Pelicans’ guard Tyreke Evans hit a 14-foot fadeaway jumper with 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation to give New Orleans the lead.
Portland would have one last look, with Nicolas Batum finding LaMarcus Aldridge on the baseline, but Anthony Davis, who blocked two of Aldridge’s shots on the night, forced Aldridge into a tough shot that went off the top of the backboard as time expired.
“Had a couple of options,” said Aldridge explain the last play. “Looked at Wes on the back screen. I actually thought Wes was open for a second so I kind of stood there and I guess both of the guys went with Wes then I was open. (Batum) threw it to me. (Davis) is athletic so I tired to pump fake him at first to see if I could get him off the ground. He really didn’t jump, so I just shot it.”
The Trail Blazers have now lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
While the game wasn’t ultimately decided until the final seconds of regulation, the Trail Blazers put themselves in a tough position to win the game in the first half by giving up 40 points in the paint.
“We started out too slow,” said Aldridge of Portland’s first half defense. “We started out letting them be very comfortable in the pick and roll. We were letting the guards get to the basket a little bit too much. We turned it on in the second half but we definitely can’t do that anymore. We’ve got to come out and play with the intensity we had in the third and the fourth (quarters) in the first half.”
The Trail Blazers did a better job of limiting penetration in the second half, but were still never able to take the lead, though they did tie the game multiple times in the fourth quarter.
“I liked the way we defended in the second half even though the numbers don’t show it,” said Stotts. “Thought New Orleans made a lot of midrange jump shots. We did a much better job with points in the paint and limiting transition, second chance points, all those things in the second half.”
Even though they were better in the third and fourth quarters, Portland still allowed an opponent to score over 100 points for the ninth-consecutive game.
“We just can’t rely on our offense,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 38 minutes. “Your offense isn’t going to come with you every night. We have to rely on the fact that we can get stops, we’re able to get stops, and let that fuel our offense. We can’t go in (thinking) we’re going to outscore this team, we’re going to outshoot this team. We have to go in (thinking) that this team is going to be a hell of a night for them trying to score on us.”
Aldridge passed Jim Paxson for fifth on the all-time franchise list in points with 10,027. Aldridge is now behind only Clyde Drexler (18,040), Terry Porter (11,330), Cliff Robinson (10,405) and Jerome Kersey (10,067) on the franchise scoring ledger. Aldridge finished with 28 points on 13 of 24 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 39 minutes while battling Davis on the defensive end for much of the night.
“He’s competitive, I’m competitive,” said Aldridge of the matchup with Davis, who finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. “I definitely wasn’t trying to let him stop me and I don’t think he wanted me to stop him or to score on him, so we definitely battled. I think when you have two good power forwards in one game, you’re always going to battle.”
Lillard played a game-high 41 minutes and finished with 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Unfortunately his performance was nullified by the play of Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday (31 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds) and Tyreke Evans (20 points, five rebounds and four assists). Evans in particular was especially effective in the first half, scoring 14 of his 20 points on six of seven shots before the halftime intermission.
“We knew coming in that (Evans) wanted to get into the paint,” said Lillard. “That’s another thing, just knowing personnel and knowing what we’ve got to take away from them. Knowing that he wanted to get to his right hand and get to the rim, we should have did a better job of taking that away. Early on we let him get his confidence up and we finally fixed it a little bit in the second half. By that time, he’s believing. He knocked down a jumper to win the game, so we’ve just got to do a better job.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers fly to Oklahoma City to take on the Western Conference leading Thunder on New Year’s Eve while trying to avoid third third-consecutive loss.
“We’ve got 24 wins, we’ve lost seven times,” said Matthews. “We just dropped two in a row, yes, but by no means is this writing anything off. We’re human, but at the same time, we’re not excepting it. All that 24 and seven is great, but we’re pissed off. We were pissed off coming into this game, we’re pissed off about Miami, we’re pissed off now. The beautiful part is we have no one to be mad at but ourselves. Look in the mirror and get ready to bring it tomorrow.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5 PM.