Pelicans-Trail Blazers Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- With Damian Lillard playing his best basketball of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers should be able to get back to winning in the opener of a three-game homestand.
The surprising Trail Blazers look to continue their home dominance Saturday night while keeping Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans winless on their road swing.
Portland (22-5) came up short in its bid to sweep its recent trip, falling behind by as many as 32 in the second quarter en route to a 120-109 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday.
Playing their fourth road game in five nights, the Blazers rallied to outscore the Timberwolves 66-51 in the second half and cut the deficit to five with 46 seconds to play before losing for the first time in six games.
"You know last year, that probably would've been a game where we just said all right we're going to give it a shot in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter we probably would've ended up laying down," Lillard said. "But we fought back, and I think with a minute and a half it was a game."
Lillard finished with 36 points, seven 3-pointers, six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Batum added 20 points and Wesley Matthews had 16. LaMarcus Aldridge, an early-season MVP candidate, had 15 points and 14 boards despite missing 15 of his 22 shots.
Lillard is coming off an eventful trip, hitting last-second shots in wins at Detroit and Cleveland to give the Blazers the NBA's best record before Wednesday's loss. In his last two games, the reigning rookie of the year has totaled 72 points while going 15 of 26 from 3-point range.
He had 16 points and sank four 3s - including the game-winner with 0.3 seconds remaining - to lead Portland to a 95-94 win in his only career home meeting with New Orleans on Dec. 16, 2012.
The Blazers, 10-2 at home this season, have put up at least 111 points in three of their last four at Moda Center, including a 130-98 rout of Utah on Dec. 6. They're seeking their fifth straight home win against New Orleans (11-13), among the NBA's worst defensive teams on the road with 106.7 points allowed per game.
The Pelicans (11-13) are 0-3 on their five-game trip, losing by an average of 11.0 points following a 108-95 defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Davis finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds in his return after missing seven games with a broken left hand. The second-year forward had a combined 39 points and 21 boards in consecutive victories over the Blazers - both in New Orleans.
"It's great just to get back out there with my teammates, have fun and do the things that I'm used to doing," Davis said. "I've got to get back in a rhythm. You can work out for as much as you want and train as much as you want, but that game rhythm is a lot different. Hopefully it won't take me long to get my shot back and the plays I usually make and get back in the groove."
Ryan Anderson had 17 points and Tyreke Evans posted his second career triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists after missing the past two games with a sprained left ankle.
While Anderson has scored 26.2 per game over his last five on the road, the Pelicans have averaged 93.7 points on 40.2 percent shooting on this trip.
Updated December 20, 2013