Remained without Kawhi Leonard, who wound up playing in only nine games during the regular season because of a lingering right quadriceps injury.
Soon after, however, New Orleans began clamping down on defence and ramping up its tempo in transition, closing the second quarter on a 19-4 run that earned the Pelicans a standing ovation as they walked off the floor at halftime with a 61-43 lead. But the lack of depth for New Orleans will be a problem, and will be enough to push Portland to a series win.
Just three wins separated the No. 3 seed in the west - Portland, with 49 wins - and the No. 9 seed - Denver, with 46 wins.
"They stole one from us here, and we felt like that was a game that we should have had".
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"We don't plan to stop here", Anthony Davis said.
The New Orleans Pelicans needed to sweat out the franchise's first playoff win since 2011 - the first under the Pelicans moniker they adopted before the 2013-14 season and the first of Anthony Davis' career. But two months later the Pelicans beat the Blazers 123-116 in Portland without Davis.
It a complete effort by New Orleans' starting five, which each scored at least 13 points and finished plus-15, never allowing San Antonio to pull within single digits in the second half. That meant New Orleans was able to retain their lead stead at 18, 90-72.
"We are going to play it just like we would any other game and try to win it", Gentry said before the game.
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Davis stepped up in Cousins' absence, averaging 30.4 points and 11.8 rebounds.
But Nurkic played only 19 minutes as Stotts elected to go with Ed Davis and Zach Collins.
The Blazers split the season series with the Pelicans, winning the first matchup in October 103-93 and the final meeting in March 107-103.
GUESSING THE BEARD ISN'T COMING BACK: The Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic in a trade after Cousins went out. But late this season, he shaved his beard, joined the starting lineup and he's been thriving ever since, scoring no fewer than 21 points in a game during the Pelicans' season-ending five-game winning streak.
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