In the second game of the two-game series, the Trail Blazers and Pelicans found themselves in another physical battle.
This time though, Portland picked up the defensive pressure earlier than the final six minutes.
The Blazers mixed up their defense in the first half mixing in a zone early against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
It disrupted Williamson driving to the lane. He was held to 11 points in the first half.
At the other end, New Orleans needed to be reminded quickly that if Damian Lillard is given any daylight, he’s going to make a team pay.
Portland held a 57-48 halftime lead.
But in the second half, the Blazers struggled to put points on the board.
Yet after continuing its defensive intensity in the second half led by Gary Trent Jr., Portland held New Orleans to 39.8 percent shooting to take the two-game series with a 101-93 victory.
Lillard went to work early using Enes Kanter's screens at the top of the key or any other wing on the perimeter.
And it worked out well.
The Blazers point guard notched 21 points in the first quarter to help his team take a 31-23 lead after the first 12 minutes. He hit 5-of-6 from three to start the game.
And just when it looked like the Pelicans could take the lead in the final three minutes, it was Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. who delivered from three.
In the final minute, Lillard and Enes Kanter knocked down their free throws to put the Pelicans away.
Immediately after the win, Lillard said he thought that was the Blazers "best defensive game of the season."
Portland did get Harry Giles (left calf strain) back on the active roster, but was still without Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).
Even though he was available, Giles did not see the floor.
For the Pelicans, J.J. Redick (right heel; soreness) was out.
Damian Lillard continued to tear apart the Pelicans defense. The Blazers six-time All-Star finished with 36 points on 12-of-21 shooting.
CJ McCollum was even more limited in his usual stretches on the floor than he was in his return to action on Tuesday.
The shorter run for McCollum was most likely a product of a back-to-back for the Blazers. Now with him only playing 20 minutes, he still might play Friday against Dallas.
After Lillard put on a shooting clinic in the first quarter, it was McCollum’s turn.
The Blazers shooting guard used his scoring and playmaking to extend Portland’s lead with some help from Carmelo Anthony off the bench. Melo finished with 15.
Despite having an off shooting night, Gary Trent Jr. brought the energy and the pressure on the defensive end slowing down the Pelicans, especially on the break.
The Trail Blazers clamped down on defense as a team and executed their game plan, but they still had a difficult time slowing down Brandon Ingram early. The starting small forward used his length to his advantage. He led the Pelicans at the break in scoring, but it was Zion Williamson who went on the attack in the second half. Williamson finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Portland cooled off offensively in the third quarter, getting outscored 22-20. The Blazers ended up shooting 37.9 percent from the field for the game.
Frustrations mounted in the final period after the Blazers were upset with a few calls that were whistled against the Blazers that sent Williamson to the line, as well as a couple no-calls.
It was Airplane Mode in the first quarter for Derrick Jones Jr. --
The Pelicans shot just 27.0 percent (10-37) from three for the game.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will play in the second leg of their current back-to-back when the Dallas Mavericks visit Moda Center. The Blazers and Mavs are scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. PST on NBCSNW Friday, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.