In the three games Anthony Davis has missed this season, the New Orleans Pelicans have gotten incrementally better. But they still couldn’t avoid a four-game losing streak.
They lost to Utah by 21 and then to Denver by just five after battling back from 18 down in the third quarter. Against Portland on Thursday, the Pelicans held the lead in the third quarter, but the Trail Blazers were just too much in the fourth.
New Orleans looked like a team playing its third game in four nights and a team on the second night of a back-to-back as tired legs zapped the team as Portland won, 132-119.
The Pelicans scored at least 31 points in the first three quarters but finished with just 20 in the fourth quarter as the Trail Blazers pushed the lead to double digits for the first time.
Anthony Davis was a game-time decision, going through pregame warmups before it was announced he would sit just minutes before tip-off. Davis played Wednesday night against Golden State but did not look 100 percent.
On the broadcast, TNT sideline reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude said Davis told her his pain is a “six” on a scale of 1-10 and said Gentry told her that Davis would be playing if it was a playoff game and not the eighth game of an 82-game season.
New Orleans held its own for the first three quarters, including taking an 81-80 lead on a Nikola Mirotic layup with 7:55 left in the third quarter. The Blazers responded with a quick 6-0 run, but New Orleans tied the game up at 90 a few minutes later.
That’s when Portland drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to seize control. The Pelicans cut the lead to three at the end of the quarter, but Portland was just too much in the fourth as New Orleans fell to 4-4.
Julius Randle had 23 points in the first half in just 11 minutes. He finished with 29 points while shooting 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Mirotic struggled from the field shooting 6-of-20, but he still had 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Jrue Holiday had 17 points and 10 assists while E’Twaun Moore had 19 points.
The other injuries: Point guard Elfrid Payton missed his third game in a row because of an ankle sprain and Darius Miller missed his fourth consecutive game because of a right quadriceps contusion.
New rotation: Alvin Gentry went with a 10-man rotation, but small forward Solomon Hill was not in that mix against the Blazers in the first half. Gentry went with Randle, Frank Jackson, Ian Clark and Cheick Diallo off the bench early but ended up bringing Hill in during the third quarter.
Gentry played Hill with Moore, Holiday, Randle and Mirotic allowing him to focus on defense with an offensively-based lineup around him.
First points: Gentry emptied the bench late in the fourth quarter but it allowed rookie Kenrich Williams to get his first NBA points. Williams hit both of his shots in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer, to finish with five points.
Up next: Game four of the Pelicans’ five-game road trip is in San Antonio on Saturday night. New Orleans wraps up the road trip on Monday against Oklahoma City.