Trail Blazers, Pelicans put fragile win streaks on line in New Orleans

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The Portland Trail Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans have both struggled this season. Both have records below .500, but both are showing signs of improvement.

The Blazers and the Pelicans have both won two games in a row as they prepare to meet Tuesday night in New Orleans.

“What I see is that we’re growing, and early in the season we were giving ourselves an opportunity, but we were falling short,” Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said. “Now we still have a ton of games left ahead of us, but I like what we’re doing. We’re starting to find our rhythm, starting to find what environments that we can play in down the stretch of games.”

New Orleans beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City last Wednesday when Devonte’ Graham banked in a 61-foot, buzzer-beating, tie-breaking 3-pointer.

Two nights later, Graham made eight 3-pointers and the host Pelicans defeated a shorthanded Milwaukee team in overtime. Graham scored 26 points while taking just 12 shots.

“We have the utmost and extreme confidence in Devonte’ and his ability to shoot the ball and play-make for us,” Green said. “I just like the fact that he’s being more aggressive. Those are shots that he can make. We want him taking them with confidence.”

New Orleans has gone 7-5 after a 3-16 start.

The Pelicans, who haven’t had a player enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols this season, lost an opportunity to win a third consecutive game Sunday when their game at Philadelphia was postponed because COVID-19 issues and injuries left the 76ers without the minimum eight players necessary to play a game.

The Blazers cooled off the red-hot Grizzlies on Sunday in Memphis. Damian Lillard scored 32 points and Norman Powell added 28 in a 105-100 victory that ended Memphis’ five-game win streak and handed the Grizzlies just their second loss in 12 games.

“We had to execute,” Lillard said. “We had to get stops. We had to weather a few storms. It was a great win. Pulling a game out like this shows growth.”

Powell scored 20 in the second half for Portland, which had lost seven straight before the consecutive wins.

“We knew at halftime that somebody had to take some pressure off of (Lillard), and Norm was huge,” Blazers first-year coach Chauncey Billups said. “He was big-time on both ends of the floor.”

The result was Portland’s second road win of the season and its second consecutive win for the first time since Nov. 23.

“This is a big-time win for us,” Billups said. “I thought we just showed great resolve. It could have gone a lot of different ways. We just kept fighting.

“Everybody knows about our struggles on the road thus far in the season. We’re understanding now how hard we have to play to be able to compete in this league and now we’re starting to just now play with a little more from the neck up a little bit — play a little smarter.

The Blazers fought through 20 turnovers compared to eight by the Grizzlies. Portland shot 34.4 percent on 3-pointers and Memphis shot 26.5 percent.

–Field Level Media

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