PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Giving up 20 points in a quarter to a reserve forward may have been just the thing to let New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry air his many grievances with his team’s defense.
Damian Lillard scored 22 points and eight assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 128-112 win over the Pelicans on Friday night.
CJ McCollum and reserve forward Jake Layman each had 20 points for Portland. Layman got all his scoring in the second quarter.
Anthony Davis finished with 27 points and seven rebounds for New Orleans. Jrue Holiday had 20 points and Julius Randle added 19.
Gentry was unhappy with the Trail Blazers’ defensive effort. New Orleans came in ranked 25th in defensive rating.
“We’ve got to do better defensively,” Gentry said. “Every night it’s 130, 140, 147, we’re not going to win games until we’re able to guard somebody. We’ve got to be able to defend and we’re not doing it.”
For Gentry, the problem for the Pelicans is simple.
“It’s keeping your man in front of you and if you can’t do it, we gotta find someone who can,” he said. “We just can’t keep having guys drop to the basket and lay it in. We can’t have a guy come in and get 20 points and laugh at us while he’s doing it. At some stage, you’ve gotta have pride in what you’re doing.”
The urgency for Gentry is kicking in as the Pelicans fell to 21-25, four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Davis, who hurt his hand in the fourth quarter, did not speak to reporters.
Portland opened things up in the second thanks to their reserves, most notably the scoring from Layman. In the span of 2 1/2 minutes, the Moda Center became a playground-like scene. Layman scored 11 points in six Portland possessions as the crowd stood up and the Blazers force-fed him the ball, helping them push their lead as high as 17.
After the game, Lillard joked that Layman scored “all” of Portland’s 74 first quarter points.
“The basket looked big,” Layman said. “You just throw it up there and it goes in.”
“When he gets hot, he’s a live wire,” Blazers forward Evan Turner said of Layman.
The Blazers also had 23 second chance points thanks to 18 offensive rebounds.
The Blazers quickly got their lead up to 21 in the third quarter, with Lillard scoring 10 points in the period.
New Orleans, which trailed by 18 going into the fourth, got a push from its reserves to pull within eight with under eight minutes remaining.
A 3-point play by McCollum pushed the lead back to 11, which helped get the Blazers back on track with 7:37 left.
Pelicans: New Orleans has struggled with injuries, but one of the key contributors is getting healthier. It’s only been nine days since forward Nikola Mirotic was cleared to return to action after missing 12 straight games in December and early January. Gentry told reporters before the game that he’s not monitoring Mirotic’s minutes anymore.
“I think when he first came back, you want to be a little cautious on it,” Gentry said. “I don’t plan on playing him 38 minutes or anything but I don’t have to look at anything and say he’s at 25 minutes, uh oh.”
Trail Blazers: With a backcourt featuring two scoring guards, questions about the defense are frequent. But lately, they’ve been quite stingy. Over the last 10 games, the Blazers have been fourth in defensive rating. Coach Terry Stotts likes the team’s consistency on that end.
“Part of it is we’ve been playing teams with poor records but we’ve still stayed consistent with it,” Stotts said. “We’ve been pretty locked in on scouting reports and tendencies and their plays and things like that. But over the last 11-12 games, statistically we’ve been pretty good.”
Pelicans: At Memphis on Monday night.
Trail Blazers: At Utah on Monday night.
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