New Orleans Pelicans (6-10) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-9)
Nov. 25, 2016, 7:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Pelicans injuries: Dante Cunningham (out), Tyreke Evans (out), Quincy Pondexter (out)
SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes
The Trail Blazers return home from a grueling five-game road trip to face a resurgent Pelicans squad in the Moda Center. These two teams are only a week removed from their last meeting, but that week has drastically changed the feeling surrounding tonight’s contest.
Before last Friday’s game, the Pelicans were already considered, for the most part, out of the hunt for a playoff spot in the brutal Western Conference. Four wins later, and they suddenly appear to be one of the more dangerous teams in the NBA. Meanwhile, Portland seems stuck in reverse. With only one win in the last week, there are real signs of panic surrounding the Trail Blazers.
Reinvigorated by the return of Jrue Holiday, New Orleans’ offense is firing on all cylinders. Turnovers have decreased, efficiency has sky-rocketed, and Anthony Davis is now only behind Russell Westbrook in points per game on the NBA leaderboard.
A flawed Trail Blazers defense will be tasked with slowing down this momentum. After last Friday’s meeting, keeping Davis under control will be the first priority for coach Terry Stotts. The Pelicans star was held to just two points in the first quarter, but he finished with an eye-popping 38 in the final box score. Aggressive double-teams and constant pestering seemed to be effective early for Portland’s defense. This strategy was scrapped when the rest of the Pelicans decided to make their shots.
Focusing all of the attention on one player is often a dangerous proposition, but it is a gamble worth taking when facing a team that shoots the third-worst percentage in the league from the 3-point line. The Blazers been torched by opposing power forwards in three out of their last four games, so putting their fate in the hands of Davis’ supporting cast might be the best option at this point.
There is some good news for Portland though, as Damian Lillard should be able to improve upon his 8-for-24 shooting mark from the last meeting. Thanks to Kevin Love’s record-breaking performance on Wednesday, Lillard’s stellar outing against a stingy Cavs defense received little recognition. If he can get hot in consecutive games, it could be the difference for the Trail Blazers.
And don’t look now, but Evan Turner is in the process of shaking his scapegoat status. He has connected on at least half of his field goal attempts in the last three games, and he has only committed two turnovers in the same stretch. New Orleans’ bench outscored Portland’s bench by 21 points in the previous outing. A repeat of that margin would be unlikely if Turner is able to maintain his recent level of play.
A full day of rest and a return to their normal time zone could be enough to give the Blazers an edge in this one. Despite a four-game winning streak, the Pelicans have plenty of flaws that can be exploited. If the home crowd is treated to an early lead, the enthusiasm from the stands might be able to patch over some of the holes in Portland’s defense.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!