NEW ORLEANS -- The lasting image from the head coaching debut of Hornets general manager Jeff Bower will be that of New Orleans' biggest star, Chris Paul, being carried off the court by teammates with one hand over his face.
Given the way the New Orleans has struggled when Paul is not on the court, Bower could be in for a tough first few games in his new job.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 13 rebounds, helping Portland to an 86-78 victory over a New Orleans team on Friday night that lost Paul to a sprained left ankle while trying to adjust to the firing of Byron Scott.
Paul left the arena on crutches, saying he would not play Saturday night in Atlanta and beyond that could not be sure about how serious the injury was.
"I hate to watch and I hate to know that I'm going to miss a game," said Paul, who said he expected about 75 friends and relatives to attend the Atlanta game. "They just took X-rays. I don't know anything."
The Hornets trailed for most of their first game since Scott's firing on Thursday. Bower and new top assistant Tim Floyd struggled to find a lineup that could score consistently even when Paul was in the game.
Still, Bower was pleased with the way the Hornets played defense, allowing the second-fewest points in 10 games this season.
"We struggled scoring the ball obviously, but we didn't let our offense affect our defense and I think that's another sign of a step forward," Bower said.
Paul sprained his left ankle at the end of the third quarter, moments after setting up Hilton Armstrong's dunk that cut Portland's lead to 62-52.
Brandon Roy scored 15 points for the Trail Blazers, who won their fifth straight game while dropping New Orleans to its fourth loss in five games.
"Any time you win road games, it's huge," Roy said.
Andre Miller had 12 points and Joel Przybilla 10 for the Blazers, while Greg Oden grabbed 12 rebounds. Oden and Przybilla each blocked three shots. Portland outrebounded New Orleans 60-40 and finished with a 22-3 advantage in second-chance points.
Aldridge helped Portland pull away by consistently hitting his mid-range jumper in the third quarter, when he scored all of the Blazers' points during an 8-2 run that increased Portland's lead to 54-40.
"We needed some offense," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "His jump shot was on and he was able to get to the basket a couple of times. I would like to see him go to the basket more."
Bower, who also will remain general manager, tried a variety of lineups, including one with 2009 first-round draft choice Darren Collison and Paul playing in the backcourt together. Collison remained at point guard after Paul was hurt and finished with a career-high 18 points.
Fellow Hornets rookie Marcus Thornton led the Hornets with a career-high 20. David West was the only starter in double figures with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Paul was in the midst of what seemed destined to be his worst game of the season even before he hurt the same ankle he twisted in the Hornets' victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles last Monday.
Paul made no secret that Scott's firing bothered him personally and played below his normal standard. In his first 11 minutes on the floor, he did not score, missing four shots, and had one assist and one rebound. He did not score until hitting one of two free throws with 1:30 to go in the second quarter.
He said it was "obviously" strange for him to take the floor without Scott, the only NBA coach he's had, directing the team from the sideline.
"It was different, but it's something I'm going to have to get used to," Paul said. "At the end of the day, the game is basketball and we're going to play. I'm happy about our effort tonight."
He finished with three points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes.
"Obviously our offense wasn't as in synch as we'd like but it's going to be a work in progress," Paul said. "The thing that kills me most is I want to be out there to help my teammates. Now I can't do that physically but I can be there for them mentally and emotionally."
Thornton scored 11 in the first half and West scored 10 to keep the game close through two quarters. Paul's assists on fast-break baskets by Emeka Okafor and West highlighted a 7-0 run that put the Hornets briefly ahead 32-30.
Portland closed the half on a 7-1 run that included Roy's jumper as he was fouled, then Travis Outlaw's tip-in gave the Blazers a 37-33 lead at halftime.
- Both teams shot under 24 percent in the first quarter. Portland was 4 of 20 and New Orleans was 6 of 26.
- Portland finished shooting 37.9 percent and New Orleans 36.7 percent.
- Portland outscored New Orleans inside 42-30.