Davis takes stage, scores 35 as Pelicans hold off Blazers
Philadelphia opens with a big victory over Miami in East.
Anthony Davis stole the show and the New Orleans Pelicans stole home-court advantage from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Davis had 35 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo won the backcourt battle, and the Pelicans held on for a 97-95 victory on Saturday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference firstround series.
Holiday added 21 points, outplaying both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and had a big blocked shot in the closing seconds as New Orleans escaped after Portland erased almost all of a 19-point deficit.
“It’s the playoffs,” Holiday said of his final block. “A lot of excitement and a lot of energy especially in the building. Obviously, that was a really big stop and at that moment it felt good to get a stop. It felt good to know that all the hard work we put in this game, we got the win, so we did a really good job at that.”
Rondo finished with 17 assists, eight rebounds and six points.
Portland made a charge that cut it to 93-92 on McCollum’s 3-pointer just inside a minute left. Lillard missed in the lane with 15 seconds remaining with the Blazers still down one, and after Davis made two free throws, Holiday blocked Pat Connaughton’s layup with 6.3 seconds to go.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts and several players said that the play was designed for a 3-pointer, but the Pelicans successfully took those options away.
Perhaps that had something to do with Rondo knowing everything the Blazers were ready to throw at them and relaying that knowledge to his teammates.
“He’s in a different mindset,” Davis said. “He was up all night watching film. When they were calling plays out there he was telling us what it was in our version before they had a chance to run it. He’s definitely locked in. The way he played tonight with 17 assists, he’s just in a different mode for the playoffs.”
Lillard finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while McCollum had 19 points.
76ers 130, Heat 103: Joel Embiid used some body English as he scampered down the baseline and tried to will Marco Belinelli’s off-balance 3-pointer through the net.
Belinelli buried it, because of course he would. Even the wild ones go in of late for the Sixers.
With their injured Embiid on the bench, the 76ers proved one more time in their biggest game in six years they can romp without their All-Star. Embiid wore a white mask as he rang a miniature Liberty Bell — then the Miami Heat got their bell rung in Game 1 of the firstround series.
Ben Simmons had 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut, and the Sixers rolled to a 130-103 victory on Saturday night for their 17th straight win.
“I feel this group has something special in it,” coach Brett Brown said.
Led by four each from JJ Redick and Belinelli, the 76ers hit a team playoff-record 18 3-pointers (on 28 attempts).
The Sixers have stormed through the NBA since midMarch and the Heat were just another victim in a winning streak that includes nine straight without Embiid.
Brown, who won championships as an assistant in San Antonio, won 47 games his first three seasons as the Sixers underwent the Process — and 52, plus Game 1 this season.
“The NBA playoffs is the greatest professor you’ve ever had,” he said.
The 76ers aced their first test.
Redick, who said he briefly lost vision in his left eye following a hard fall early in the game, scored 28 points to lead the Sixers, who host Game 2 on Monday. Belinelli had 25 and Ilyasova 17.
Embiid posted a photo burst of teams in order of a potential road toward a Process title. He started with the Heat, followed by Boston, then a picture of him hugging Cleveland’s LeBron James, and ending with Embiid looking at Golden State’s Draymond Green.
The Heat would swipe left on the collage.
For a half, the Heat got what they needed against one of the NBA’s toughest teams and James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk helped them take a 60-56 lead at the break. Olynyk led the Heat with 26 points.
Simmons assisted on Ilyasova’s 3 and then hit a jumper for a 66-63 lead. Dario Saric, who the Sixers waited for two years to come over while he played overseas, also buried a 3 off an assist from Simmons. Simmons made a statue out of Olynyk, crossing him up and busting through for a twohanded slam that brought down the house.
All that was left was the “Trust the Process!” chants and they rang out inside the Wells Fargo Center once Saric buried a 3 in the fourth for a 109-87 lead.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” Simmons said.
So were the Sixers.
Anthony Davis of the Pelicans dunks the ball during the first quarter Saturday night in the victory at Portland.
Ben Simmons of the 76ers dunks the ball past Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside of the Heat.