Blazers shake off Hornets for 99-90 win and season sweep

As members of the New Orleans Hornets arrived on the Rose Garden court for warm ups, there were only eight players dressed in blue, gone where familiar faces like Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and even former Blazer Jarrett Jack were nowhere to be seen. And when the starting lineups were announced, the only good thing the Hornets (13-38) had starting was the return of Carl Landry. As Raymond Felton returned to the starting lineup after missing the loss against Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers (24-27) were looking to take the season sweep as each contest between these two all season long were low scoring and slow basketball. That was still the case as the Hornets believe it or not would go up as many as seven points and took a halftime lead over the home team, the Blazers had some good looks but couldn’t hit and didn’t bother boxing out the paint or defending Marco Belinelli at the three-point line. With a minute left in the third quarter, Portland finally started to play some good defense and make some shots while the Hornets fell into their bad habit of hitting multiple cold-shooting spells, they did manage to threaten late in the game, but clutch threes marked another Blazer victory and they won 99-90.

It was hard to believe when NOLA went ahead and were up by six right as the game started, Portland fed the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum but both clanked their first few shots, didn’t help either that Batum was being hounded by one referee and was called for multiple team fouls. The Hornets capitalized on some threes by Belinelli and Landry down in the post. The Blazers also helped by sending the Hornets to the foul line where they could not miss no matter how loud the home crowd got. Their confidence was getting higher as time went on and they managed to answer every shot the Blazers made, once their benches started seeing some action however the Hornets couldn’t afford to let their starters sit for very long. J.J. Hickson who is giving Portland something to look forward by his decent few games was the first one-off the bench and moved Aldridge to center. The first quarter ended as Luke Babbitt hit a three but NOLA was still up 28-27.

Babbitt wouldn’t stop there, he was found at the top of the key again for another tré ball and hit it, and once more as the quarter went on and ran back down the court pumping his fist a la Tiger Woods. The threes wouldn’t stop, Wesley Matthews and Batum each hit one but lazy inside defense let the Hornets waltz on through and score and even second chance points. Portland would find themselves still down 54-51 at halftime while NOLA were happy as can be too able to score more than 50 in the first half while shooting 48% from the floor.

The same would bestow the Blazers until a minute left in the third. The Blazers were lazy to get back on defense, follow the guards and didn’t box out the paint. At some point the Blazers said “enough is enough” and made quality shots, blocked shots and Babbitt/Batum/Matthews hit more threes that finally extended the lead (Blazers lead! Blazers finally lead!). Hickson would drive inside, Felton would pick apart the Hornets defense and Aldridge did what he does best. The Hornets wouldn’t go away quietly as they tied the game halfway through the fourth quarter as Belinelli hit a couple deep three-pointers but the rest of his team couldn’t muster enough points to regain the lead. The highlight of the night came with the game at 99-90, Felton was fouled intentionally and was sent to the line for two shots, almost guaranteeing the Rose Garden crowd of free mexican food. And just like typical Felton fashion, he clanked the first free throw to the groans of the crowd. He had one final chance to make peace with the fans who have booed him on multiple occasions this season, a 78% free throw shooter needed just one shot to send the crowd home happy. And he missed a pair.

LaMarcus Aldridge had a decent average night and did what he needed to do, team high 25 Pts, 12 Reb, 5 Ast on 11-18 shooting and was a force during the third and fourth quarters. Wesley Matthews had many bright spots throughout the game although he found more success taking the outside jumper than driving inside for 18 Pts. Luke Babbitt had one of his best games of his young career and whenever he touched the ball outside the line the crowd was begging him to bomb it and he did, a bench high 16 Pts, 3 Reb on 5-8 shooting and 4-6 from three as his confidence continues to build. J.J. Hickson came nicely off the bench for extra firepower for 12 Pts, 6 Reb, Raymond Felton dished 10 Ast on 12 Pts (would’ve had 14…just saying) and Nicolas Batum had a tough go early in the first half but had 14 Pts, 4 Reb, 2 Blk and 3-7 from downtown.

New Orleans’ leading scorer was of course Marco Belinelli and his 7-11 threes, some that found their way into the net and shouldn’t have made it but he has the range and it took awhile for Portland to follow him. Carl Landry finished with 24 Pts, 7 Reb and Greivis Vasquez in place of Jarrett Jack had 13 Pts, 6 Ast.

  • Points in the paint: POR 44, NOLA 32
  • Shooting percentage: POR 48%, NOLA 46% (and it shouldn’t have been that close but it’s happened all season long)
  • Free throws: POR 9-13, NOLA 20-21 (if it wasn’t for Landry late in the fourth, the Hornets would have gone 100% and did a tremendous job at the line, something Portland should be envious about)
  • Assists: POR 26, NOLA 12
  • Rebounding: POR 33, NOLA 34
  • Turnovers: POR 9, NOLA 14

It was one of those types of games that if you happened to miss it you shouldn’t be upset. Luke Babbitt is now suddenly the talk of the town after his good shooting night and was asked to do the post-game interview. He has completed 14-of-27 3-point attempts this month and will look to continue his streak against the Los Angeles Clippers on a back-to-back the next night.

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