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Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Preview

The Blazers continue their Western Conference road trip in New Orleans against a Pelicans team with playoff aspirations.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (22-19) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (20-20)

Friday, January 12th - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (probable)
Pelicans injuries: Anthony Davis (questionable), Tony Allen (out), Solomon Hill (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes

Injury update:

Portland continues their road trip in New Orleans after losing a seesaw game to the Rockets in Houston. This will be the third matchup between the Blazers and Pelicans this season. The teams split the first two, which were both played in the Moda Center.

New Orleans is coming off a loss in Memphis to the 13-27 Grizzlies. They have lost four of their last six games including home losses to the Mavericks and Knicks. Anthony Davis sat out their loss in Memphis and is questionable against the Blazers; he only played five minutes against Portland in the first matchup before leaving with an injury, and he sat out the second game entirely.

What to watch for

  • DeMarcus Cousins. The big man leads New Orleans in points and rebounds with numbers that put him fifth (25.9 points per game) and third (12.4 boards per game) in the NBA. He’s also averaging a career high in assists with five per game and is in the NBA’s top 10 in blocks. He has dominated the Blazers in their two previous matchups, scoring 38 and 39 points while shooting a combined 26-51. He also got to the line frequently, putting up 30 free throws in the two games.
  • Defense vs. Offense. The Pelicans score the fourth-most points in the NBA with 110.6 per game, but give up the third most with 110.8. Portland is near the top of the league in points against (102.4) but are in the bottom 10 in scoring (103.5). In the teams’ first matchup in October, Portland’s defense won the battle, limiting New Orleans to 93 points in a 103-93 victory. In the second matchup last month, the Pelicans’ offense dominated, leading them to a 123-116 win. The Blazers’ offense has been better lately, averaging 114 points in the six games they’ve played in 2018. Can Portland’s defense limit the Pelicans again, or will the Blazers need to continue their recent offensive output to keep up with New Orleans’ offense?
  • CJ McCollum back on track. McCollum had a rough shooting stretch to close 2017, with the Blazers’ second-leading scorer shooting less than 40 percent from the field and scoring less than 20 points in four of five games to end the year. Since the calendar turned, McCollum has been the efficient scorer Blazer fans have come to expect. He’s averaging 24.5 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting in 2018—numbers that are more in line with his 2016-17 season.

What they’re saying

Oleh Kosel wrote about the Pelican’s inconsistency and complacency for The Bird Writes:

Potential, while it can tantalize on paper and more so in live action, is meaningless when it’s not funneled properly and unaccompanied by great discipline, effort and focus. The Pelicans find themselves at .500 because they’ve earned it. Talent alone doesn’t promise great rewards.

Assistant Coach Jamelle McMillan stressed to Preston and I on a recent podcast that this team’s biggest overall weakness is their undisciplined nature. It succinctly explains why the Pelicans have looked like world beaters one minute and completely hapless the next.

But a continuous lack of consistency begins to reek of complacency when it stems from playing undisciplined all too often. When players start equating poor efforts as just another loss. When the coach on the sidelines opts for false pretenses to explain a game’s outcome.

William Guillory of The Times-Picayune also criticized New Orleans’ urgency in recent games:

Finding a way to play with more of an edge has become even more vital for the Pelicans because of the way they’ve seemingly lost some of their identity in recent weeks.

New Orleans surprisingly transformed into an offensive juggernaut during the month of December, but it has been held to 106.4 points per possession in January, and the team’s struggles hit rock bottom on Wednesday.

Competing at a high level on a night-to-night basis has inexplicably been one of the recurring problems New Orleans has dealt with in many of its losses. One of the main reasons behind Memphis’ win on Wednesday was the way it out-competed the Pelicans on a consistent basis.