|Trail Blazers aim to make things difficult for Davis, Pelicans|
The Trail Blazers understand what they'll be up against Friday night when Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans visit Portland for a Western Conference encounter.
The 6-11 Davis ranks third in the NBA in scoring (29.4) and rebounds (13.4) and second in blocked shots (2.6). The perennial All-Star is on a short list among contenders for the annual Most Valuable Player Award.
"He can score in so many ways," Portland center Zach Collins said. "He'll back you down, ball handle, score on dribble pull-ups, floaters, fadeaways. He's a really good, versatile offensive player, and he's really good at the defensive end, too -- a great rim protector. When you drive in the paint, you know he's coming. He does it on both ends."
"Everything revolves around A.D." Portland guard CJ McCollum said. "We have to make it as difficult as possible. He changes the game at both ends."
New Orleans has been playing better of late, having won four of its last six games. The Pelicans put a scare into Golden State, leading much of the way before falling 147-140 in Oakland on Wednesday, with Davis going for 30 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists.
Nikola Mirotic came off the bench for 21 of his 29 points in the first half, Jrue Holiday scored 25 points and Julius Randle added 23 for the Pelicans against Golden State.
"We played well, but when you play the (defending NBA) champs, there is going to be an eb and flow to the game," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry told the media afterward. "(The Warriors) made some really tough shots down the stretch. ... That's why they're a championship team."
Portland comes in off an easy 129-112 home victory over Cleveland. Guard Damian Lillard led the way with 33 points in 32 minutes and center Jusuf Nurkic picked up his first career triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
The 7-foot Bosnian, who also had five blocked shots in his 28 minutes, said he didn't want to get a triple-double artificially.
"I don't mess with the stats," he said. "Sometimes the stats are not showing what people can do."
Did the triple-double mean anything to him?
"People say you always remember the first," he said. "But if we'd lost, I'd be mad as hell. I'm just trying to help my team to win."
Lillard said the triple-double displays the versatility Nurkic has in his game.
"When he first got here, everybody saw how he can pass out of the post, how he could score in the post and how he could rebound," he said. "But this shows his growth in our offense, how much we are able to count on him to make plays and handle the ball up top.
"We've developed a trust in giving him the opportunity to have the ball in his hands, and we know that something good is going to come from it."
The Trail Blazers haven't forgotten getting swept by the Pelicans in the first round of last year's playoffs.
"We know they have some really good players," Collins said. "They always play hard. It's not a team we take lightly. We'll be ready."
--Field Level Media