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Damian Lillard, Blazers Adapted To Pelicans’ Stifling Defense

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The Athletic’s Jason Quick examined the changes that the Blazers made to adapt to swarming defenses.

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Three Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers secured a season sweep over the Pelicans with a 122-110 victory on Friday. Portland’s regular season performances against New Orleans are a far cry from the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Led by Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans swept the Blazers by utilizing a defensive scheme that absolutely smothered Damian Lillard. As a result, Lillard’s scoring average dipped to 18.5 in four brief games against New Orleans.

Disrupted by a lack of depth and Davis’ trade demand, the Pelicans’ fortunes have been much different this season. Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s squad is firmly outside of the Western Conference playoff race as the end of the regular season approaches. Regardless of New Orleans’ decline, Portland’s adjustments on offense have been noticeable.

After Friday’s result, Gentry spoke with The Athletic’s Jason Quick about how Lillard has adapted.

“I think somewhere along the line, they worked on that,” Gentry said with a chuckle. “We tried to do it in the first game with them this year, and Dame wasn’t having it. And knowing Dame like I know him, the competitor that he is, you knew that wasn’t ever going to work again.”

Lillard went on to confirm Gentry’s assumption. According to Lillard, he has attacked pressure with pace.

First time I played them this year, I was like, ‘That is not happening this time,”’ Lillard said. “When I got the ball, I was coming off fast — and now they were the ones shocked.”

[...]

“Instead of me being the one off balance, now they were off balance,” Lillard said.

In Friday’s win, Lillard finished with 24 points and seven assists.

You can read Quick’s full story at The Athletic (subscription required).