NBA Basketball
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Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Portland 25 31 31 36 123
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2:00 PM PT3:00 PM MT4:00 PM CT5:00 PM ET21:00 GMT5:00 2:00 PM MST4:00 PM EST1:00 UAE (+1)23:0017:00 ET4:00 PM CTNaN:� , April 21, 2018
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana  Attendance: 18,544

Pelicans look to pull off sweep of Trail Blazers

According to STATS
According to STATS

Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans

  1. New Orleans defeated Portland on Thursday, 119-102, to take a three-game lead over the Trail Blazers. This is the first time the Pelicans have been up, 3-0, in a postseason series, and one more win would mark just the second time New Orleans has ever won a series in the playoffs (defeated Dallas, 4-1, in 2008).
  2. The Trail Blazers have forced a Game 5 in five of the seven playoff series in which they were down, 0-3. Portland has started winless in the first three games of the First Round three of their last four postseason appearances.
  3. The Pelicans shot 52.9 percent from the field in Game 3, which is the franchise's second-highest field-goal percentage in a playoff game all-time (shot 60.8 percent versus Dallas on April 22, 2008).
  4. Damien Lillard is averaging 18.3 points through three playoff games after averaging 26.9 points per game during the regular season. He entered the First Round averaging 24.6 points in playoffs, the fourth-highest career postseason average by a point guard.
  5. Anthony Davis scored 28 points in Game 3 and is now has 211 total points through his first seven career playoff games. The only players with more since the ABA/NBA merger are Michael Jordan (248), LeBron James (236) and George Gervin (226).
  6. Nikola Mirotic has set his playoff career high in points during each game of the playoffs, finishing with 30 in Game 3 on Thursday (scored 16 in Game 1 and 17 in Game 2). Mirotic is shooting 58.5 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from three-point range this postseason (.319 FG%, .262 3PT% over 17 playoff games prior).
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS -- Before the 2017-18 regular season began, any conversation regarding the New Orleans Pelicans and brooms had something to do with the possibility the team would clean house.

That would have meant parting ways with coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps if the Pelicans missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year despite having one of the NBA's best players in Anthony Davis.

But now, the broom means something very different.

Energized on both ends of the court, the Pelicans have the broom ready Saturday at the Smoothie King Center to sweep the faltering Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference playoffs with a fourth consecutive victory in the first-round series.

With a win Saturday, the Pelicans would become the first playoff team seeded sixth or lower to sweep a first-round playoff series since the 2001 Charlotte Hornets swept the Miami Heat 3-0 in a best-of-five series.

"Closeout games are the hardest," said New Orleans guard Rajon Rondo, a 32-year-old veteran who is the Pelicans' second-oldest player, someone who has served as an on-court coach to his younger teammates. "That's what I'm going to try to explain to these guys. The first three might have been tough, but this last one is going to be very tough."

In routing the Blazers 119-102 on Thursday to take a 3-0 series lead, the Pelicans fed off a raucous sellout crowd and led by as many as 33 points in the second half, allowing Gentry to rest his starters. Davis finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while nursing a sore left thumb, and forward Nikola Mirotic, acquired after center DeMarcus Cousins went down in late January with a season-ending Achilles injury, scored a career-playoff-high 30 points, with 14 in the first quarter.

Even though Portland's normally potent guard tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had their best game of the series -- combining for 42 of the Blazers' 102 points -- Lillard had trouble shaking free of the Pelicans' trapping defense, which forced the ball out of his hands. Lillard made just 5 of 14 shots, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range.

"They whooped our butt," said McCollum. "They beat us in every facet of the game: loose balls, rebounds, free-throw line, energy plays, 3-pointers in transition. ... You name it, and they did it."

The Pelicans have made a conscious decision to swarm Lillard and McCollum at every opportunity, daring other Blazers to beat them. Portland hasn't adjusted properly to the strategy. Lillard has shot 32.7 percent in the three losses.

"I don't think (defensive assistant coach) Darren Erman has gotten the credit that he deserves," Gentry said. "He put together a great defensive game plan. It was him that brought the game plan to me and said, 'This is what I want to do against them.'"

"You have to continue to mix it up and give them different looks," Gentry added. "Even doing that, those guys got some shots off and made some real difficult shots. We've just got to make sure that we stay locked in and not let them get into one of those zones when it starts to go in and it doesn't matter what kind of shot they're shooting that it's going to go in."

Making matters worse for the Blazers is their injury status. Both Moe Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (right toe) are questionable for Game 4.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Pelicans have been tough to handle because a different player each night has shredded the Blazers' defense.

"Going into the series, those four guys (Davis, Jrue Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo) have played extremely well," Stotts said. "(Mirotic) is the third different guy who's had a 30-point night. He's very efficient, and he made a lot of smart basketball plays as well."

Updated April 21, 2018

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