The New Orleans Pelicans entered the fourth game of their series with the Portland Trail Blazers with an opportunity to complete a sweep Portland and win their first playoff series since the 2007-2008 season. Some key aspects of the Pelicans game three win over the Portland Trail Blazers were suddenly nowhere to be found in Saturday afternoon’s game. Nikola Mirotic scored only 10 points and did not even attempt a shot until the start of the second quarter after dropping 30 points in game three. The Pelicans staunch defense from game three that forced 24 turnovers and only allowed 102 points in game three was nowhere to be found despite Pelicans fans chanting “defense” on nearly every possession.
At the end of the first quarter, the Pelicans held a slim 26-25 lead. In the second quarter, things began to get chippy. After a huge alley-oop from Rajon Rondo to Anthony Davis, Anthony Davis and Ed Davis bumped into each other as Anthony Davis was running back to play defense. The two Davises then exchanged words and were each assessed technical fouls. Next, with 2:04 left in the second quarter E’Twaun Moore and CJ McCollum got into it after McCollum hit Moore with a hard foul while Moore was attempting a layup. Moore was assessed a technical and McCollum a Flagrant 1. Finally, with only 0.7 seconds left in the first half, Zach Collins pushed Rajon Rondo after Collins fouled Jrue Holiday on defensive rebound and Rondo slapped the ball out of Collins’ hands. Collins and Rondo were both given technical fouls after the altercation. After the game, Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry commented on not letting the altercations affect New Orleans’ game plan, he said, “The thing that we talked about is we just have to keep our composure and our emphasis and concentration should be on executing offensively and defensively and trying to stay away from any of that.” At halftime, the Pelicans still led 58-56.
The Pelicans came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter and started to pull away. The Pelicans lead grew to as much as 15 points with 59.4 seconds left in the quarter. Much of this was due to the superb play of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday who had a combined total of 60 points through the end of three quarters.
The Trail Blazers made a run in the fourth quarter on the backs of CJ McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu. With 5:08 left in the game, Portland had cut the Pelicans lead back down to one point at 112-111. The Pelicans responded to the Trail Blazers run and each team battled down the stretch. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday continued to step up for the Pelicans and in the post-game interview, Gentry would admit that in the closing minutes New Orleans started to run set plays to get Davis and Holiday the ball as opposed to their normal free-flowing offense.
Despite closing the deficit to just one-point, the Trail Blazers couldn’t close the gap any more than that. The Pelicans finished off the Trail Blazers 131-123 to knock Portland out of the playoffs. The loss marked Portland’s tenth straight playoff game loss in a row. When asked about the losing streak after the game, Damian Lillard had this to say, “I mean that’s just a number. At this point, we’ve lost ten straight. That can change. You can go into next season and win eight straight. You just got to continue to compete and stay with it. Just keep believing.”
Anthony Davis finished with a New Orleans playoff record 47 points and Jrue Holiday contributed another 41. The Pelicans move on to the second round and will likely face the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Gentry commented on his team’s chances versus the Warriors, saying, “We’re playing the NBA Champs and we understand that… They’re a great team. I’m very familiar with those guys. They play a great brand of basketball that’s great to watch and is very difficult to defend. We have to get together tomorrow and the next day and we have to look at a bunch of film and try to devise a game plan that can slow them down some.”