Jrue Holiday added 21 points, outplaying both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and had a big blocked shot in the closing seconds as New Orleans held on after Portland erased almost all of a 19-point deficit.
Rajon Rondo finished with 17 assists, eight rebounds and six points as New Orleans won the back-court battle on top of Davis dominating the interior.
Lillard finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while McCollum had 19 points.
The sixth-seeded Pelicans were the only road team to win on the opening day of the NBA Playoffs. Nikola Mirotic had 16 points, 11 rebounds and also blocked four shots to help Davis earn the first victory of his playoffs career.
It looked like it would come easily, as the Pelicans extended a nine-point halftime lead to 69-50 on Holiday’s dunk with 4:25 left in the third quarter. It still seemed safe when Davis threw down a thunderous alley-oop slam from Rondo with 6:09 to play, letting out a scream as Portland took an 86-72 lead.
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.
Pelicans: New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry is a believer in ‘Playoff Rondo’, the idea of Rondo elevating his game in the postseason. “I think there is a sense of confidence that he has, especially this time of the year,” Gentry said. “He’s a really bright player. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around. I’ve obviously had the opportunity to coach Steph [Curry], Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Grant Hill. When you start talking about the extremely smart players, he’s one of those guys. I also think he has a way of giving confidence to the other guys. He makes them believe in themselves.”
Gentry says he relishes having someone who can lead the team in the way Rondo can. “I know it’s like an old cliché, but it really is like having an extra assistant coach.”
Trail Blazers: Among the challenges for the Blazers in this first-round series, none ranks higher than defending Davis. Terry Stotts said that he would begin the series with Jusuf Nurkic, who did not see much time on Davis in the regular season, on the All-Star big man.
But Nurkic played only 19 minutes as Stotts elected to go with Ed Davis and Zach Collins.