PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 36 points, 21 in the opening quarter alone, and the Portland Trail Blazers won the second of back-to-back games against the New Orleans Pelicans, 101-93 on Thursday night.
Carmelo Anthony added 15 points for the Blazers, who also edged the Pelicans 125-124 on Tuesday night. Enes Kanter finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Zion Williamson had 26 points and 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season for New Orleans.
The Pelicans’ 93 points were the fewest by a Portland opponent this season.
“I just think that we came out sharper defensively,” Lillard said. “We knew what we were capable of, and we put a solid defensive effort together and we were able to sustain it. We’ve had a couple opportunities to beat a team twice this season, and we haven’t been able to do it. I think we all understood that and had that in mind, and we defended. Start to finish.”
Anthony’s 3-pointer gave the Blazers an 86-72 lead early in the fourth quarter for their biggest advantage of the game to that point.
Lonzo Ball’s floater pulled the Pelicans within 88-83 with 4:13 left. Robert Covington answered with a 3-pointer for the Blazers.
Williamson’s dunk with 1:20 to go narrowed it again in to 94-89 but the Pelicans couldn’t catch up in the end.
“When you’re struggling that much offensively, your defense has to be damn near perfect,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “And it wasn’t. We couldn’t get the ball in the basket at all tonight.”
On Tuesday, Portland trailed New Orleans by 17 points midway through the fourth quarter, but made up the deficit and won it on Lillard’s free throws with 1.2 seconds to go. Lillard finished with a season-high 50 points and 10 assists, and was 18 for 18 from the line.
On Thursday he picked up where he left off, with 15 of the Blazers’ first 20 points. He had five of his six 3-pointers in the opening quarter as Portland built a 31-23 lead.
CJ McCollum, who returned Tuesday from a fractured left foot, had back-to-back 3-pointers to put Portland up 42-33. The Blazers led 57-48 at the half.
Williamson’s dunk got the Pelicans within 59-53 early in the third but Lillard’s floater pushed Portland’s lead to 75-62.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts agreed with Lillard, calling it the team’s “best defensive game of the year.”
Portland has won six of its last eight games and completed a sweep of the three-game season series.
Pelicans: Williamson averaged 32 points in the first two games against Portland. … J.J. Reddick missed his sixth game with a sore heel. … Brandon Ingram finished with 19 points, and Ball had 15.
Trail Blazers: Lillard has more than 16,000 points, joining Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the only players with as many points in their first nine NBA seasons. … Stotts is one win away from his 500th career victory. … The Blazers are 4-0 when they hold opponents to under 100 points.
Pelicans: Visit Denver on Sunday.
Trail Blazers: Host the Dallas Mavericks for a pair of games on Friday and Sunday.
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