NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams was noticeably cautious Wednesday as his team prepared to play the Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Arena.
The Hornets had come off a three-game road trip playing well, and Williams obviously wanted that to continue with the All-Star break coming up this weekend. Williams repeatedly said his mind was just on the game’s first quarter.
The Hornets started the first quarter well, built on it in the second, broke things open in the third and finished with a crescendo in its most lopsided victory of the season, pounding the Trail Blazers 99-63.
They held Portland to a season-low in points and field-goal percentage (32.4) and committed a season-low seven turnovers in getting their fourth win in five games after struggling through a previous road trip, which ended with four consecutive losses.
Using the pick-and-roll to near perfection, the Hornets scored 52 points in the lane. They scored 61 points in the second half after holding the Trail Blazers to 14 points in the first quarter and 12 in the second.
Portland appeared listless, ending a six-game road trip with its fifth consecutive loss.
“The defensive effort tonight was tremendous, coupled with the fact (the Blazers) were probably tired coming off their road trip,” Williams said. “I was concerned about LaMarcus
Aldridge and (Damian) Lillard. If they can get it going, we could be in trouble.”
The victory also came without starting guard Eric Gordon, who sat out with a sprained right hand. Rookie Austin Rivers started for the second consecutive game; he had eight points and no turnovers and played solid defense.
“It happened during (Wednesday morning’s) shootaround, and we were prepared for it because he didn’t play (in Monday’s win) in Detroit,” Williams said. “Austin stepping up for Eric — I thought he was really good going to the basket.”
The Hornets entered the fourth quarter with a
commanding 67-44 lead after a strong third quarter by power forward Anthony Davis, who won his rookie battle against Lillard, Portland’s point guard and the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. Davis had game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds. Lillard had
12 points and four assists.
More important, Davis outplayed Aldridge, an All-Star power forward against whom he was matched. Aldridge scored just six points on
2-of-11 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.
“I wasn’t going to back down,” Davis said. “I know LA is a great player, no question. I just tried to take on that challenge. The coaches told me it was going to be a tough challenge, and I just tried to battle him, hold my position and know that I had help coming from my teammates.”
Forward Ryan Anderson scored 14 and center/forward Jason Smith 13, pacing 45 points by the bench. Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Davis, who scored just one point in the Hornets’ win at Detroit on Monday, had eight in the third quarter from 6:51 to the 3-minute mark and played solid defense against Aldridge.
“It was good to see Anthony play aggressively after the game he had in Detroit,” Williams said.
After Davis’ third-quarter stretch, Anderson sank two 3-pointers from that point, his second pushing the margin to 65-40 with 1:34 left. It continued to expand in the fourth quarter, reaching 39 points — 98-59 — with 1:18 remaining.
“We got our butts kicked,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Defense kind of kept us in it in the first half.”
Both teams had been pedestrian offensively in the first half, but the Hornets went on an 11-5 run through the first five minutes of the third, taking a 49-31 lead after a dunk by Aminu and Davis’ shot in the lane.
After taking a 19-14 lead in the first quarter, the Hornets kicked it up a notch in the second behind the play of its bench, taking a 38-26 halftime lead.
Starting at 1:06 of the first, New Orleans held Portland without a score until 7:46, when Aldridge sank a jump shot from the top of the key. That ended a 7-0 run by the Hornets highlighted by a 3-pointer by Darius Miller that had pushed the lead to 26-14 at 8:06.
The Blazers seemed to slip into a funk after starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews sprained his left ankle 1:30 into the game on a drive to the basket, and it was announced early in the second that he would not return.
After the All-Star break, the Hornets’ next game is at home Feb. 19 against the Chicago Bulls.
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