PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers know they’re behind the eight-ball Tuesday night at Moda Center when they play host to the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
The No. 6 seed Pelicans stole a 97-95 victory in Saturday’s opener. The No. 3 seed Trail Blazers realize they can’t go to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4 trailing 2-0 in the series.
“It puts some pressure on us,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. “You come in with home-court (advantage) and you lose the first one. Now in (the Pelicans’) locker room, they’re saying, ‘We got one. Why not go get another one?’
“Our job is to defend the home court, so it’s one game at a time. We can’t let (Saturday’s) loss go into the next game.”
Portland has plenty of things to solve after Game 1. The Blazers would like to do a better defensive job on Anthony Davis, who carved them up for 35 points and 14 rebounds.
More important, they need to get their offense going early. The Blazers shot 31.9 percent from the field, including 3 of 17 from 3-point range, and trailed 45-36 at intermission on Saturday. Lillard and backcourt mate CJ McCollum combined for three points on 1-of-15 shooting in the first half.
McCollum finished with 19 points and Lillard 18 as the Blazers got untracked for 59 second-half points. But New Orleans’ defense on the Portland guards was as big a factor as any in the outcome.
“We just wanted to make sure we put as much pressure as we could on Dame and CJ, and make someone else beat us,” Davis said. “Our main focus was to make it tough on Dame and CJ.”
New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday was the best guard on the floor Saturday, with 21 points on 10-of-20 shooting and seven rebounds to go with outstanding defense.
“With Kawhi Leonard injured, I don’t know if there’s a better two-way player in the game,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We ask him to get 20 points every night and guard the best perimeter player on the other team, regardless of size or who it is. I don’t know if you can do a better job on those two guards than Jrue and (Rajon Rondo) did.”
Lillard thought the Blazers should shoulder the blame.
“We just didn’t make shots,” said Lillard, who played 42 minutes, including the entire second half. “Give credit to what they did defensively. They were physical, and they were trapping a lot of my pick-and-rolls. But it comes down to the way we shot. We got a fair amount of good looks; we just didn’t knock them down.
“We probably played as bad as we could possibly play. And (the Pelicans) played really well, and we still had a chance to win at the end. If we come out (in Game 2) and play like the team that we are, it’ll be a much better performance.”
Saturday’s win was the first ever in the playoffs for Davis, now in his sixth season in the NBA.
“It means a lot to get that monkey off your back,” he said. “But now that’s over with. We want to come in Tuesday and get another one. We always believe. Winning this game makes us believe more, especially on the road.”
Gentry said, “We feel comfortable playing away from home. If you can win the first game, it takes the edge off. But we have to do the same thing (on Tuesday). You can’t take anything for granted. You still have to play with the same intensity.”