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Top pick Davis bounces back to lead Hornets over weary Blazers

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- For Anthony Davis, the NBA's No. 1 draft pick, learning what it's like to be a true professional can be a frustrating mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Two nights after one of his worst outings as a pro -- an 0-for-7, 1-point performance against the Detroit Pistons -- the New Orleans franchise rookie forward poured in 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in powering the Hornets to a 99-63 rout of the road-weary Portland Trail Blazers.

"It wasn't really frustrating -- it was just a relief," Davis said after not only scoring and rebounding, but also holding Portland All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to six points on 2 of 11 shooting. "(After) you have a bad game, and then you have a good one and see the ball go through the net, your confidence just builds. When I got that first dunk, your confidence just rises, and I tried to keep feeding that."

In his previous four games combined, Davis had scored only 19 points, and he seemed to be hitting the rookie wall. His poor offensive play was magnified because the Hornets typically don't run many plays through him.

Instead of getting down on himself, Davis said he followed coach Monty Williams' advice and decided to refuel his aggressiveness. He stayed in the gym overtime Tuesday, taking 500 extra shots.

"I also got a good lift in," Davis said. "I was just trying to keep my mind right."

In sending Portland to its fifth consecutive road loss before the All-Star break, the Hornets (19-34) held the Trail Blazers (25-28) to multiple season lows on the offensive end. The Blazers' 26 first-half points and 63 total points were their worst outputs of the season.

"The defensive effort tonight was tremendous, coupled with the fact that (the Blazers) were probably tired coming off a five-game road trip before the All-Star break," Williams said. It was good to see Anthony be aggressive after the night he had in Detroit. I've seen a lot of growth from a lot of our guys."

The Hornets' smothering defense held Portland to 30.9 percent shooting over the first three quarters, when New Orleans built a 23-point lead, 67-44. That margin came at the end of a 10-0 run at the end of the quarter, with Ryan Anderson (14 points) hitting a pair of 3-pointers.

The rout was on. The Hornets, who have won four of their last five games, widened their advantage to as many as 30 points, 82-52, with 6:49 left and then extended it to 39 points inside the final minute.

"We got our butts kicked," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We didn't play well and they were prepared for us. They got the ball out of Damian (Lillard's) hands and LaMarcus' hands, and (we) weren't able to make plays after that."

The Hornets also got 13 points from Jason Smith and 10 each from Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu.

The Blazers, who lost for the ninth time in 10 road games, were held 34 points below their season average of 97.5. Lillard, a strong candidate for NBA rookie of the year, led Portland with 12 points after scoring 33 against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.

The Blazers lost shooting guard Wesley Matthews in the first two minutes of the game with a sprained left ankle. Matthews had to be assisted into the locker room.

But it probably wouldn't have mattered, not with the way Davis ran the court and controlled the paint on defense. Most of his points came off second-chances and scramble plays where he showcased his quick jumping ability.

"I haven't watched him play a lot, but that's the best I've seen him play," Stotts said. "He was making his outside shot. He had an impact defensively in the lane; he got rebounds."

Vasquez said he was thrilled that Davis bounced back from a bad two weeks and now looks poised to have the Hornets continue playing competitive ball after the All-Star break. The Hornets started the season 5-22 and have gone 14-12 over the last seven weeks.

"He needed that," Vasquez said. "People are going to be tough on him because he's the No. 1 pick, but regardless, he's going to be the player everybody expects him to be. Tonight, he showed flashes. He was energetic. He was checking one of the best players in the game. He's just got to keep it up."

NOTES: Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon sat out the game with a sprained right hand. Austin Rivers got the start and scored eight points. ... NBA 3-point leader Anderson is headed to the All-Star Game to participate in the 3-point shootout. Anderson has made 32 of 70 (45.7 percent) from long range in the last 10 games... The Trail Blazers went 1-5 on their six-game road trip. ... Portland's .324 field-goal percentage was a season low. ... The Hornets had a season-low seven turnovers.
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