Pelicans roll in Portland, ready for Golden State challenge
The plan was clear Monday night in Portland.
Willie Green wanted his New Orleans Pelicans to come out strong and to take the starch out of an undermanned Blazers squad early and to rest his key players as much as possible with a huge game at defending NBA champion Golden State looming Tuesday night in the second of a back-to-back.
It could not have worked out better as the Pelicans executed the plan to perfection.
New Orleans jumped all over Portland early and never let up in a 124-90 victory for its fifth straight win. All five wins have been by 10 or more points.
There was a lot to like.
The Pelicans shared the ball well with 31 assists, shot the ball well at 57 percent from the field and rebounded the ball well, destroying Portland 53-29 on the boards. All 13 players scored at least two points. New Orleans outscored Portland 62-54 in the paint.
New Orleans had a commanding 34-14 lead after one quarter and led 58-35 at halftime. It was 89-55 going to the fourth quarter. The largest lead was 36 points for the Pelicans.
Brandon Ingram scored 29 points in 31 minutes while CJ McCollum had 17 points as Ingram, the Western Conference Player of the Week, continues to play at an elite level. Trey Murphy III had 16 points in 28 minutes. Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 29 rebounds in 30 minutes played. No one else played more than 26 minutes.
Green was able to clear the bench midway through the fourth quarter.
With the win, New Orleans climbed above .500 for the first time since Feb. 15. The Pelicans are now 38-37 and remain eighth in the West after Minnesota downed Sacramento 119-115 to remain a half game ahead of New Orleans.
With the win, the Pelicans eclipsed the 36 wins in the regular season last season.
The Pelicans now must rise to the challenge in the second of a back-to-back at Golden State in the biggest game of the season. New Orleans is a half game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference. The Warriors are 30-8 at home but lost their last home game.
It is a daunting task for the Pelicans playing on consecutive nights, facing the champs and doing so on their home court, where they thrive.
With seven games remaining, every game means everything to New Orleans. With an even tougher test to follow Thursday at Western Conference-leading Denver, the game with the Warriors may be the better chance to win.
With the five straight wins, the Pelicans are playing by far their best basketball in the New Year. The result is the chances of reaching the postseason have grown substantially.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…