Confidence is brimming for the Portland Trail Blazers as they carry a chip on their shoulder into the Big Easy Sunday night for a showdown with the New Orleans Hornets.
The Blazers blasted the mighty San Antonio Spurs Friday night by a lopsided 136-106 score behind a brilliant performance by Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard. Lillard scored a game-high 35 points, handed out nine assists and did not turn the ball over. He had nine points in the third quarter and later buried a 3-pointer for a 110-95 advantage.
"To come in here and win is hard enough," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "To do it in that fashion is pretty remarkable."
It was San Antonio's worst loss at the current residency since 1990.
Lillard, the leading rookie in points (18.8 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg), wasn't alone in this one. LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson finished with 26 and 23 points, respectively, while Eric Maynor netted a season-high 20 points off the bench. Wesley Matthews hit five 3-pointers for 15 points.
Lillard has scored 20 or more points in five straight games for the first time in his career, averaging 25.0 ppg in that stretch. He has 31 games this season with 20-plus points.
Portland shot a sizzling 61.6 percent from the field and made 13-of-21 from beyond the arc (61.9 percent). The Blazers scored 46 points in the fourth quarter and 79 in the second half. They were able to hold onto the lead after blowing a double-digit advantage at Memphis on Wednesday.
Winners in three of the last four games, the Trail Blazers are eyeing a possible playoff spot and sit two games off the eighth and final postseason berth in the West. After visiting New Orleans, Portland, which is 9-22 away from the Rose City, will return home for three games versus Memphis, New York and Detroit.
In injury news for Portland, rookie center Meyers Leonard suffered a sprained right ankle at San Antonio and is questionable Sunday.
New Orleans is fresh off Saturday's 96-85 loss at Memphis, it's third in a row as the visitor.
Rookie Anthony Davis paced New Orleans with 20 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, while Ryan Anderson collected 17 points and seven boards for the Hornets, who have lost three straight and eight of their last 10.
"When any team plays in our paint, they can do whatever they want," Davis said of Memphis' inside presence of Ed Davis and Marc Gasol.
The Grizzlies didn't have Zach Randolph and still gave New Orleans fits.
"I thought Ed Davis really outworked us tonight and a lot of times AD (Anthony Davis) was the guy trying to box him out," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "You know 20 and 18 you can't argue with that, but at the same time, defensively, being able to keep guys off the glass is a tough deal."
The Hornets are 11-20 at home and are scheduled to depart for a three-game road trip, starting Tuesday at Brooklyn.
Both New Orleans and Portland have defeated each other once this season with wins as the host. The Blazers, though, have won six of the past eight in the series.