PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — New Orleans rookie Cheick Diallo has spent the season back and forth with the NBA's Development League, but he helped the Pelicans get one last victory before the offseason.
Diallo had 12 points and 16 rebounds, and the Pelicans snapped a five-game losing streak with a 103-100 victory over the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
"He's been with us like four days, no practices, no anything, but he has a really high basketball IQ," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Jordan Crawford added 15 points for New Orleans, which finished 34-48 and out of the playoffs for the second straight season. The victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Pelicans at the Moda Center.
Shabazz Napier had 25 points for Portland in the loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak. The Blazers, who will face Golden State in the opening round of the playoffs, rested starters Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The Pelicans pulled ahead 94-93 on Diallo's layup with 4:01 left, then stretched the lead on Crawford's jumper and a 3-pointer.
Meyers Leonard closed the gap to 99-95 for the Blazers with a long jumper. Following free throws, Noah Vonleh's hook shot got the Blazers within 101-100.
Quinn Cook made a pair of free throws for New Orleans before Tim Quarterman missed a pair for Portland on the other end to end it.
Diallo said he wanted to show everything he could.
"Everybody was on the same page. We were moving the ball, passing it and rebounding was the key," he said. "I think I got 15 or 16 rebounds and one block so that was big time. I just came ready and focused to play."
For the Blazers, thoughts turned to the playoffs.
Portland clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the West on Sunday, when the Denver Nuggets fell to Oklahoma City. It is the fourth straight season that the Blazers have made the postseason. Portland will open its series against top-seeded Golden State on Sunday afternoon in Oakland. The defending Western Conference champion Warriors defeated the Blazers in the second round last season.
"It's going to be a challenge," coach Terry Stotts said. "I think after last season, and we played them well last game, we're going to compete. We're going to have to play very well to beat them in a series. That's part of playoff basketball. Being the eighth seed, you're going to have a tough matchup."
Lillard and McCollum were held out for a second straight game: Portland also sat them on Monday for a 99-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and reserve guard Shabazz Napier scored a career-high 32 points.
Portland also sat forward Al Farouq-Aminu, and reserve guard Allen Crabbe missed a third straight game with foot soreness.
The Pelicans said DeMarcus Cousins (right Achilles) for the fourth straight game and Anthony Davis (left knee) for the third. Coach Alvin Gentry said he's getting minutes for the younger players to put some pressure on them and see how they respond.
Pat Connaughton's 3-pointer gave the Blazers a 33-22 lead early in the second quarter, but the Pelicans took a 47-46 lead late on Alexis Ajinca's dunk. The game was tied at 53 at the break.
Portland went up 64-58 on Jake Layman's 3-pointer, but again the Pelicans came back, knotting the game at 75. Another Layman 3 prevented New Orleans from pulling ahead.
Connaughton's 3-pointer put Portland in front 93-86 in the final period. Connaughton finished with a career-high 19 points.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak at home for Portland.
Pelicans: Cousins, traded to New Orleans from Sacramento in February, played in 17 games for the Pelicans and averaged 24.4 points and 12.4 rebounds a game. ... The Pelicans hadn't won at Moda Center since 2010.
Trail Blazers: Portland lost all four of its regular season games against the Warriors. Kevin Durant averaged 29.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in those wins.
FINAL SHOWCASE: With the playoffs looming and minutes limited, Connaughton was also happy for the opportunity on national TV.
"I mean our goal is to win games so that was disappointing that we weren't able to do it, but it was fun to be out there with a different set of guys, and be out there period and show what you can do on a national scale," he said.
BONUS: Portland forward Maurice Harkless was in an unusual position because his contract paid him a $500,000 bonus if he finished the regular season making 35 percent of his 3-pointers. He was at 35.1 percent going into the game. He finished with 11 points, but did not attempt a 3.
Posted on Thu, April 13, 2017
by By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer