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Portland Trail Blazers defense Jerami Grant leads in 106-95 win over New Orleans Pelicans: At the buzzer

Damian Lillard wasn’t happy the Portland Trail Blazers sat him down as a precaution for their visit to New Orleans on Thursday night as he continues to recover from a calf injury.

It ruined a scheduled match against CJ McCollum, his former longtime teammate and good friend.

Then comes news that Jusuf Nurkic (right adductor pain) and Shaedon Sharpe (right finger sprain) would also be ruled out with injuries.

With so many key bodies downed, the Blazers looked a long way from winning at the Smoothie King Center.

But again, the Blazers’ available players elevated their games, the defense continued to thrive, and Portland took a 106-95 win.

Jerami Grant led the Blazers with 27 points and Anfernee Simons scored 23. But it was the defense that won the night, holding off a Pelicans team that entered Thursday averaging 118.2 points per game, the third-best in the NBA.

Simons started off slow, failing to score and missing all five of his shots in the first quarter. But as he always does, Simons kept firing and eventually his shots started to fall. He scored 10 points in the second quarter, then added 11 more in the third.

The Blazers shot 43.5% from the field, including 35.3% from three-pointers. And perhaps the most encouraging statistic was nine – as in nine turnovers. The team averaged 17.2, tied for the most in the NBA.

“Obviously the thing I’m most proud of in this game is our turnovers,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “When you don’t return it, teams don’t score in transition on you. I like our defense in the half court. They do a pretty decent job. I thought our zone was amazing in this game tonight. We just kept fighting.

Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 29 points. McCollum finished with 13 points and seven assists. Brandon Ingram, who fouled with 3:32 remaining, had 14 points and five rebounds.

The Blazers held the Pelicans to 41.8 percent shooting.

“Very huge win,” Blazers forward Justise Winslow said. “It’s a team that we will see four times this year. They played well. We had people downstairs and outside. But it is always the mentality of the neighbor. The guys stepped up and the guys made the necessary plays when we needed them.

Anfernee Simons

Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) heads for the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. The Trail Blazers won 106-95. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) APPA


Before the start of the season, this six-game trip seemed like a doozy for the Blazers (9-3). But they surprisingly won four of the first five games, even though Lillard sat out three times, Nurkic and Simons each missed two games and Grant was ruled out once. The Pelicans fell to 6-6.

“We’ve faced some really good teams on this trip and we’ve deserved it all so far,” Billups said. “We thought this trip was going to be very difficult and it was.”


Before the game, Billups said he told Grant, who played 42 minutes, that the team would need all he gave given how shorthanded they were.

straw grant

Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant (9) slams dunks on New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III, right, and forward Herbert Jones, left, in the second half of a game NBA basketball court in New Orleans on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. The Trail Blazers won 106-95. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) APPA

In fact, Billups told Grant and Simons to take questionable jabs here and there to create offense with Lillard, Nurkic and Sharpe.

“I thought Jerami was having a great time all night,” Billups said.

One of Grant’s biggest moments came with 4:56 remaining when he drove the lane, elevated and dove over two Pelicans defenders to give the Blazers a 97-89 lead.

“For a guy who’s not aggressive, there was a lot of aggression on that dunk,” Billups said. “I think he knows once you go out there, if you don’t dunk him hard they might block him…I thought that was just a good move and an even better finish.”


With three key players out, it left the Blazers bench thin. Coach Chauncey Billups opted for an eight-man rotation and Nassir Little was a key option. He had 15 points and four rebounds, while making 6 of 11 shots. He made several key baskets in the second half.

Nassir Petit

Portland Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little drives to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans goalie Trey Murphy III (25) and goalie CJ McCollum (3) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans on Thursday, November 10, 2022. The Les Trail Blazers won 106-95. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) APPA

“I was really proud and happy for Nas,” Billups said.

The only other players to come off the bench were Trendon Watford and Jabari Walker. The pair had six points and eight rebounds. Watford had three steels.

Billups said the two did a good job of helping the offense become less stagnant late in the game by making smart plays with the ball.

“These guys we rely on to get things done,” Billups said. “Most of the time their numbers won’t be noticeable on the stat sheet.”


The Blazers wrap up their six-game road trip Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Dallas (6-5).

— Aaron Fentress reported from New Orleans.

— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook). Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts

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