Aldridge has 21 and Blazers snap Pelicans' win streak, 99-90
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) There's significance in reaching 50 wins in two straight seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers: It's another step in becoming one of the West's elite teams.
The mark was the latest achievement for the Blazers, who have already clinched a playoff berth and the Northwest Division title. Win No. 50 was a 99-90 victory over New Orleans Saturday night that snapped a four-game Pelican winning streak.
''It's going in the right direction,'' said guard Damian Lillard. ''A lot of the elite teams are consistently going over 50, and I think it's great for us to have back-to-back seasons with that.''
LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Chris Kaman added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Portland, which is jockeying for home-court advantage among the Western Conference playoff teams.
''I've never had 50 wins, so it feels good,'' Kaman said.
Eric Gordon had 22 points for the Pelicans, who remain a half-game back of Oklahoma City for eighth place and the final playoff spot in the West.
With both teams grappling for the lead, the Blazers pulled in front 88-85 on Nicolas Batum's 3-pointer with 3:59 left. Lillard was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all of his shots to push the lead to 91-85.
Aldridge dunked to make it 95-85 with 2:18 left and New Orleans couldn't catch up. Lillard finished with 19 points.
''They had 18 offensive rebounds so we just kept giving extra possessions to a team that doesn't need them,'' Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. ''They didn't shoot the ball great tonight but they got so many opportunities.''
Both teams also played the night before. The Pelicans (41-35) defeated the Kings 101-95 in Sacramento, pulling within a half-game of the Thunder. New Orleans owns the tie-breaker over Oklahoma City for the edge.
The Thunder next play on Sunday when they host Houston.
''We're fighting for that eighth spot in a packed house, but honestly we want more than the eighth spot with seven games left,'' said Anthony Davis, who finished with 19 points. ''We've got to find a way to win games.''
Portland defeated the Lakers 107-77 in Los Angeles on Friday night, clinching the division for the first time since claiming a share of the title in the 2008-09 season.
Portland (50-26) is locked in a tight battle with the Clippers and the Rockets for home-court advantage in the playoffs. The four teams with the best records in the Western Conference get home court.
The Blazers have won five straight overall and eight straight at home against the Pelicans. New Orleans hasn't won in Portland since 2010.
''I'm really proud in back-to-back games to win our division and have back-to-back 50-win seasons,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ''It's something to be proud of, which we are, but we're not done. We've got to continue to get better and prepare for the playoffs.''
The Pelicans jumped out to a 14-4 lead early, but Portland closed the gap to 24-21 going into the second quarter. Consecutive baskets from Robin Lopez and Steve Blake put Portland in front, and the Blazers extended the lead to 41-34 after Meyers Leonard's 3-pointer.
Portland led by as many as 13 points en route to a 56-64 lead at the half.
Trailing 65-52, the Pelicans took off on an 18-4 run to go ahead 70-69, capped by Gordon's 3-pointer.
Portland regained the lead, pulling in front 75-72 to start the fourth quarter. But the Pelicans pushed back, going ahead 81-77 on Ryan Anderson's 3-pointer with 8:23 left in the game.
Pelicans: New Orleans coach Monty Williams was an assistant with the Blazers from 2005-10. ''I still watch a lot of Portland basketball because of my affinity for this place,'' he said pregame.
Trail Blazers: Guard Wesley Matthews, who ruptured his Achilles last month and had surgery in Southern California, returned to Portland with the Blazers after their game with the Lakers Friday night. Matthews may be able to watch games from the bench during the playoffs.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY
The Blazers will fly on Easter Sunday to New York, where they'll play a game against the Nets on Monday before coming home to face the Timberwolves at home on Wednesday. The reasons for the weird one-game, late-season road trip? It's a makeup game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 26 put postponed because of weather.
Asked how he felt about it, LaMarcus Aldridge said: ''It's a long flight or one game, and it's a long flight for one game, and it's a long flight for one game.''
Pelicans: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
Trail Blazers: Visit the New Jersey Nets on Monday.