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Blazers rally past Pelicans, clinch playoff berth

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers took care of two important items of business with their 100-94 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night at the Moda Center.

The Trail Blazers (50-28) reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since 2009-10, and they clinched their first playoff appearance since 2010-11.

“Fifty wins is something to be proud of,” second-year coach Terry Stotts said. “I told the (players), 50 wins has always been a standard, a bar in this league. The Trail Blazers have been such a great franchise. This is only the 12th (50-win season).

“We’re proud of what we’ve done so far. It’s something no one can take away from us, but no one in the locker room is satisfied with that.”

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge collected 25 points and 18 rebounds, and Portland outscored New Orleans 29-14 in the third quarter in the come-from-behind victory.

Guard Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, guard Damian Lillard had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, and forward Nicolas Batum added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers, who won for the fifth time in six games.

“Feels great to be back in the playoffs,” Matthews said. “It felt like one of those long-time-coming things. We had to make sure we made it happen. That was our energy, our urgency in the second half, and we were able to take care of business.”

Guard Anthony Morrow came off the bench to score 17 points for the Pelicans, who lost for the fifth consecutive game.

New Orleans (32-45) led through much of the early going and extended a seven-point halftime lead to 59-50 early in the third quarter. The Blazers stormed back, using a 27-6 run to take a 77-65 lead with one minute remaining in the quarter. It was 77-69 heading into the final period.

“Really poor defensive execution, and our offense kind of led to that,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “(The Blazers) capitalized on our mistakes. We came out in the third quarter and didn’t have our best stuff.”

The Pelicans were within 88-81 with seven minutes to play, and they trailed 92-83 moments later. Guard Austin Rivers scored five straight points — on a 3-point shot and a fast-break layup — to draw the visitors within 96-92 with 1:14 to go.

Aldridge sank one of two free throws to make it 97-92 with 55.8 seconds left. Morrow drilled a 20-footer with 33 seconds remaining to cut the margin to 97-94, but Lillard answered on a driving layup for a 99-94 advantage with 22.2 seconds to play.

Lillard closed out the scoring with one of two foul shots with 2.9 seconds left.

“We wanted to get 50 wins,” Batum said. “What this organization has been through the last three years, to get the 50-win mark and get back to the playoffs is good for us.

“But we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve had a good season so far, but we have four more (regular-season) games, and then the real season starts.”

Forward Anthony Davis scored 13 first-half points to help stake New Orleans to the 55-48 edge at the break. Aldridge and Matthews each scored 12 points for the Blazers before intermission.

The teams battled to a 25-25 draw after one quarter, with Davis doing much of New Orleans’ damage with 11 points.

With reserve center Alex Ajinca providing a spark, the Pelicans scored seven consecutive points to open the second quarter. Ajinca had nine points in the first six minutes of the quarter as New Orleans increased the lead to 43-33.

Portland rallied behind Aldridge and Matthews, drawing to within 47-42, and New Orleans settled for the seven-point halftime lead.

NOTES: Portland will be in the playoffs for the 30th time in the franchise’s 44-year existence, tied with Chicago for the fourth-most in the NBA over that span. The leaders in that time: Los Angeles Lakers, 39; San Antonio Spurs, 34; and Boston Celtics, 31. … Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge recorded his 39th double-double, tied for eighth in the NBA, and his 12th game of at least 25 points and 15 rebounds. … Aldridge may have set the NBA record with four offensive rebounds in a 25-second span of the second quarter. He scored on the final carom. … New Orleans F Anthony Davis, who is been dealing with back spasms, scored 11 points in the first quarter but finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in 34 minutes. Davis had scored 36, 27 and 21 points in the teams’ previous three meetings this season. … New Orleans won five in a row before its current five-game skid. The Pelicans are without their Nos. 2-3-4 scorers, F Ryan Anderson, G Eric Gordon and G Jrue Holiday, plus reserve C Jason Smith, all missing due to injury.

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