PORTLAND – At one end of the floor Sunday, New Orleans players picked off passes, swiped the ball from Los Angeles dribblers and generally got in the way of the Lakers’ plan of attack. The result was a season-high 14 Pelicans steals – more than New Orleans’ total in the previous two games combined – leading to a multitude of prime opportunities going the other way.
For New Orleans (1-2) to have a chance to post a second straight road victory vs. a Western Conference opponent, it may need similarly pesky defensive play Tuesday against Portland (2-1). One week into the regular season, the Trail Blazers are second in the league in offensive efficiency (114.4 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com), behind only Golden State (117.1).
“We just played tough, with a lot of effort and energy,” said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who came up with three of the 14 steals. “A lot of ball pressure, and just trying to disrupt everything they do.”
“I think that’s what’s going to win us games, defense, especially late in games,” Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore said. “You’ve got to find a way to get stops and be disruptive, and make it easier for us on the offensive end.”
Partly as a result of forcing and capitalizing on 17 Los Angeles turnovers, New Orleans offense shifted into high gear, finishing the 119-112 win at a gaudy 56.6 percent shooting from the field.
“It fuels everything. We try to have our defense dictate our offense,” Davis said. “When we do that, we can get out and run and get easy buckets in transition. We get all of our guys going (offensively) and get a lot of easy looks at the rim.”
Other notes from Tuesday morning shootaround at Moda Center:
The first 30-plus points night of C.J. McCollum’s NBA career came in a home opener vs. New Orleans; the Trail Blazers are opening their 2017-18 home slate against the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard has often burned New Orleans over the years, particularly in crunch time.
Moore on NOLA’s defensive focus against Portland’s outstanding backcourt duo: “You just try to make them earn everything. We know they are very talented and will get up a lot of shots. Try to make them earn it and give them nothing easy.” …
For a third straight game, Moore will wear his new signature sneaker. The guard is one of two NBA players on the roster of Q4 Sports (the other is Indiana’s Lance Stephenson).
“I created the whole shoe, the colors, the whole style,” Moore said of having his own shoe, which includes the initials “EM” on the tongue. “I’m very hands-on. It was a very creative and fun process, something I look forward to doing in the future.”