Trail Blazers-Pelicans Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers' playoff hopes are looking a little more tenuous because of their recent road woes but they'll next face a team that's struggled almost no matter where it's been playing.
The Blazers will seek to end a six-game losing streak away from home by sending the New Orleans Pelicans to another defeat Friday night.
Portland's road skid reached a season high Thursday with a 118-110 defeat to San Antonio, its third consecutive visit to a Western Conference division leader. The Blazers opened their four-game trip with a 128-94 drubbing to Oklahoma City on Monday.
"You play in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, you know it's going to be tough," coach Terry Stotts said. "I don't think it's about keeping our spirits up. It's just about competing."
Those six straight road losses are responsible for Portland's 2-6 overall mark in its last eight games. The Blazers (35-34) have seen what was a 4 1/2-game lead on a playoff spot earlier this month cut to 1 1/2 by surging Utah, winners of four straight.
With the Jazz idle Friday, Portland will try to pad its advantage by handing New Orleans a ninth loss in 11 games.
"It's an important game and one that we want to win," guard C.J. McCollum said. "We have to go out there and execute."
The Pelicans (25-42) have only beaten one team over that stretch, Sacramento, and avoided an 0-5 road trip with Wednesday's 123-108 victory.
Ryan Anderson scored 21 of his team-best 29 points in the second quarter, and New Orleans had a season-high 74 in the first half. The Pelicans averaged 49.7 points in their three previous opening halves.
"Obviously, we struggled through this whole road trip. I thought we had some good moments, played some good basketball, couldn't quite get over the hump. I thought from start to finish we did a good job tonight," coach Alvin Gentry said.
New Orleans topped the Kings 115-112 on March 7 before hitting the road to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive home defeat. The Pelicans also beat Portland 115-89 on Dec. 23 in New Orleans to end a seven-game skid in the series.
Damian Lillard sat out for the Blazers because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot after scoring 30 in a home victory over the Pelicans on Dec. 14.
McCollum, who scored a team-best 26 points Thursday, had a career-high 37 in a 112-94 victory over New Orleans on Oct. 28.
New Orleans' Anthony Davis is averaging 27.0 points on 57.9 percent shooting in the season series, and Portland will be short-handed in its next attempt to slow him down.
Meyers Leonard is expected to miss at least two more games after dislocating his left shoulder in practice Wednesday. He suffered the same injury Nov. 11 and sat out seven contests.
Chris Kaman, averaging 3.2 points, had a season-high 12 on 5-of-6 shooting and five rebounds in 14-plus minutes in his absence.
The Trail Blazers, who won six straight away from Portland prior to the skid, had a seven-game road losing streak last season.