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Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans Preview

Anthony Davis has been ruled out, so the Blazers take on DeMarcus Cousins and the Pelicans tonight.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (13-9) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (11-11)

Saturday, December 2nd - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Pelicans injuries: Anthony Davis (out), Solomon Hill (out), Alexis Ajinca (out), Frank Jackson (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes

Two days after a disappointing 103-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Portland Trail Blazers are back in action against the New Orleans Pelicans, who may be without franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis after he suffered a groin injury last night against the Jazz. (Update: He is not playing tonight)

The Blazers won the two teams’ first matchup of the year 103-93, a game Davis left in the first quarter with a knee injury.

What to Watch For

  • Is Portland going to be able to contain DeMarcus Cousins? Cousins has had some epic games against the Blazers in the last 18 months, including a 39 point, 13 rebound performance in October. The Blazers will not only need Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble, but will rely on bench bigs like Ed Davis or Meyers Leonard and help defenders like Al-Farouq Aminu to bother Cousins.
  • Can the Blazers win the wing battle? New Orleans is starting a shooting guard/small forward combo of Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore at the moment—not the most potent wing attack. While Holiday is a solid offensive player, he’s much more suited at point guard then shooting guard. But with Rajon Rondo entrenched at the point, Holiday is forced to play off the ball more.
  • The Battle of the Benches. While the Blazers’ bench has been inconsistent—ranging from excellent to downright abysmal—the Pelicans’ bench, highlighted by Jameer Nelson, Dante Cunningham, Tony Allen, and noted Blazer-killer Ian Clark has been weak all season long. If the Blazers are able to get solid contributions from their bench, this game shouldn’t be too tough of a matchup.

What They’re Saying

Andrew Sharp writes for SI why it may be time to believe in the Pelicans.

There's reason for Pelicans optimism as they approach these tests. The problem in New Orleans the past few years has been a galling, almost-incredible lack of NBA-caliber players around Davis. But that's beginning to change. Cousins alone raises the floor for this team, and when he and Davis are clicking, they are as entertaining and dominant as any duo in the NBA. Davis has an offensive repertoire that's basically impossible to stop, while 2017 Cousins plays like a point guard half the time, bullying his way into the lane or pulling up for threes, and somehow it works.

Beyond those two: Darius Miller has been genuinely helpful as a shooter off the bench, E'Tuan Moore is rock solid playing 30 minutes per night, Jrue Holiday's game has stabilized after some uneven performances early on, and between Jameer Nelson and Rajon Rondo, there's 40 minutes of capable veteran point guard play.

Rob Mahoney for SI discusses why DeMarcus Cousins is the James Harden of centers.

Cousins has become an unlikely emblem of the movement. Somehow, the league’s most terrifying post scorer is also the artillery behind 7.6 three-point attempts per game. That average makes Cousins the seventh-most prolific three-point shooter in the league, but his figure would have led the NBA outright in the majority of seasons since the three-point line’s introduction. That he makes just 34.6% of his threes is almost beside the point; Cousins’s size demands a big, traditional center as his defender, and yet the changing shape of his game serves to exploit just that kind of opponent. That Anthony Davis requires a quicker, more agile defender cements the matchup nightmare.

Any lingering concerns about how Cousins and Davis might coexist have been decimated by their joint success. Both are so flexible as to oscillate comfortably between playing inside and out, adapting to whatever best suits their circumstances. They are far from twin towers. The entire offense revolves around the wide variety of ways that both Cousins and Davis can be deployed, and thus far New Orleans has been tremendously successful with both on the floor.

Rod Walker writes in the New Orleans Advocate that Rajon Rondo is helping the team both on and off the court.

He's a student of the game, but also also a teacher of it. It's why he signed during the offseason with the Pelicans, a team he sees as a title contender.

"That's what I want to bring to this team," Rondo said in his first news conference after signing with the Pels. "I want to be able to teach the guys like Demarcus (Cousins) and (Anthony Davis) how to break down the game and how to do all the intangibles."

Rondo is still finding his way with the Pelicans. When the Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, it'll be just his fifth game after missing the first 13 with a sports hernia injury.

He spent those 13 games coaching from the bench.

Now he's getting to coach on the floor.

It's something he could probably do with his eyes closed.