Saturday, December 21
Moda Center; Portland, OR | 7:00 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: KGWHD; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: C.J. McCollum | Out for the Pelicans: Greg Stiemsma (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes | Timmay's viewing guide | Jersey contest
The New Orleans Pelicans land in Portland tonight to tangle with the Blazers, owners of the NBA's highest-scoring offense.
The Pelicans have a relatively average offensive attack that does few things well: three-point accuracy, fast breaking, getting up plenty of shots and hanging onto the ball. Outside of those categories, though, New Orleans' offense isn't particularly efficient. In fact, even though they hit outside shots better than most teams in the league, the Pelicans attempt only 17 threes a game -- for reference, the Blazers launch over 24 triples a night.
Forward Ryan Anderson is the centerpiece of Pelicans coach Monty Williams' offensive game plan, taking more shots than sophomore big man Anthony Davis, former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Anderson usually shoots about eight three-pointers a night. On the season, he's been almost a 43 percent shooter from downtown, but lately his conversion-rate has sunk to 30 percent. Last season against Portland, however, Anderson hit on over 54 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging 20 points and 8.7 rebounds in three games. In Portland's loss against the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Minnesota power forward Kevin Love scored 29 points, brought down 15 boards and hit 4-7 threes. Frontcourt players who can stretch Portland's defense have seen some success so far this year, and Anderson will likely try to break out of his recent shooting slump tonight.
Davis played his first game back from injury Wednesday night against the Clippers, scoring 24 points and securing 12 rebounds while hitting 10 of his 18 shot attempts. This season, Davis has seen decent success in the mid-range but is a bit sporadic in the paint. Still, he connects on about half his field-goals and he's a big part of Williams' offense when healthy.
Holiday and Gordon play heavy minutes in the Pelicans backcourt, shooting about a dozen shots a game a piece recently and not really favoring any one spot on the floor -- both get to the rim, can pull up in the mid-range and take outside shots. Holiday's the better overall shooter, as he's better closer to the hoop and is respectable from some deep spots, but Gordon hits more of his threes.
Wing Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jason Smith are pretty efficient shooters, but they're secondary in New Orleans' offense. Same goes for guard Anthony Morrow, who hits half his three-pointers. Sixth-man Tyreke Evans is only playing 23 minutes a night -- though he played 33 against the Clippers Wednesday -- and his shooting is way off right now, as he's struggled to get to double-figures the last few games. Backup guard Austin Rivers has found his outside shot this year, hitting 42.9 percent of his tries, but he attempts fewer than two threes a night in limited minutes.
Defensively, New Orleans has been pretty bad for the season as a whole. The Pelicans get back fast enough to not give up a lot of fast break points and they get plenty of steals and blocks, but they allow high percentages across the board. New Orleans doesn't foul opposing teams much, but they also aren't aggressive enough on the perimeter to prevent teams from shooting almost 23 three-pointers against them, on average. Portland will get its looks from outside tonight, and the Pelicans don't secure the perimeter well, so tonight would be a game ripe for the Blazers to bounce back from their 14-40 deep-shooting performance against the Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard have both performed well lately, scoring a couple-dozen points a piece the last five games. Aldridge has been going bananas on the glass for a several-game stretch, and Lillard has been getting his points at the foul-line as he's struggled to finish inside but has drawn fouls at a high rate. While the Pelicans get plenty of steals and blocks and Davis is a great individual inside presence, New Orleans doesn't protect the paint well as a team and the ball can be moved against them without extra effort.
Portland forward Nicolas Batum and guards Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams have all had recent struggles hitting shots from within the arc. Batum and Williams have salvaged their point totals with decent outside shooting lately, but Matthews' mini shooting slump stretched through Wednesday's loss. Lillard and backup forward Dorell Wright have been the best outside shooters for Portland the last several games. As mentioned above, the Pelicans do not defend the three-point line well and they allow penetration from the back court, so tonight's home game against New Orleans might be a good opportunity to get some of the Blazers players' shooting back on track a bit before the Clippers and Heat come to town next week.
Both teams are really good at offensive rebounding while struggling on the defensive glass. Backup big Lou Amundson, though sitting out the last game with a DNP-CD, is an excellent rebounder off the bench for the Pelicans. Davis is a good individual rebounder and Evans and Aminu are both good on the boards for their positions. Still, New Orleans gives up a ton of rebounds, particularly defensively, where Portland has a frontcourt rotation of Aldridge, starting center Robin Lopez and backups Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland, all of whom are good-to-great individual rebounders and allow the team to pick up extra boards with hustle and smart play. Neither team has a distinct advantage on the glass, but Aldridge might tip the scales in Portland's favor if his strong rebounding-play lately keeps up.
If the Blazers can corral either Davis or Anderson tonight, they'd give themselves an advantage by taking out a large chunk of New Orleans' offense, as the next highest-volume shooter for the Pelicans is Holiday at 12 attempts a night, six fewer than Davis and 7 fewer than Anderson. New Orleans is on a three-game losing streak, while the Blazers are 10-2 at home this season and will be looking to regather themselves after a tough loss in Minnesota a few nights ago to end a 3-1 road trip. Even so, Anderson is historically a tough matchup for Portland, Davis individually outplayed Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin Wednesday night against the Clippers and Holiday, Gordon or Evans could get things going from the backcourt against Lillard and Williams' perimeter defense.
-- Chris Lucia | Twitter