Portland Trail Blazers (22-16) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (17-22)
The Portland Trail Blazers play the New Orleans Pelicans at home for their third game in four nights. The Blazers are looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss against the Timberwolves Sunday night, hoping to improve their 1-2 record since the all star break. The Pelicans look to pick up their third straight win following big wins over the Cavaliers and the Clippers in their last two games.
Tuesday, March 16 - 7:00 p.m. PT How to watch on TV: TNT, NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Harry Giles (questionable) Pelicans injuries: JJ Redick (out) SBN Affiliate: The Bird Writes
What To Watch For
- CJ McCollum. McCollum will play his first game in two months against the Pelicans tonight. Before fracturing his foot, McCollum was averaging career highs in points, assists, three pointers, and three point percentage. Coming off of an injury like the one McCollum suffered is never easy, but if McCollum can play at a level anywhere near where he was at the beginning of the season, his impact will be felt immediately. At the very least, McCollum’s return to the lineup will serve as a morale boost for those on the roster.
- Interior Defense. The Pelicans boast the ultra efficient All-Star forward Zion Williamson. Williamson has averaged 25.5 points per game on 61.9% shooting from the field so far in this season with over 88% of his shot attempts coming from within five feet of the basket. Williamson loves shooting in the paint, as well as facilitating the offense off of his drives. His gravity when driving to the lane leaves shooters open when defenders try to stop his drives. The Blazers’ lack of size in their current rotation could actually benefit them in this match up, as they will have more switchable defenders to be able to throw at Williamson when he drives, although their lack of an above average rim protector will hurt them if they are unable to stop Williamson from getting to the basket.
- Turnovers. The Blazers are second in the league in turnovers per game, turning the ball over only 11.5 times per game. The Pelicans are right in the middle, tied for 15th in the league at 14.2 turnovers per game. The Blazers have been successful recently at forcing turnovers by the other team, and if they can force the Pelicans to make mistakes early, it might be difficult for the Pelicans to right their ship mid-game. Young teams tend to turn the ball over more, and make more mistakes in general, and the Pelicans have the league’s fifth youngest team by average age. The Blazers will need to limit their turnovers as well, as this Pelicans team excels in transition and limiting these transition opportunities will be extremely important for the Blazers if they hope to win.
What Others Are Saying
Oleh Kosel of The Bird Writes mentions Kira Lewis Jr.’s performance in the Pelicans’ win over the Clippers, talking specifically about how he has improved as of late.
Another standout on the night was Kira Lewis Jr. The rookie has struggled with his shot in most games, but there were no such issues present in his 13-point, four-assist, three-rebound and two-steal line. The three-ball isn’t dropping like he wants yet, but it feels like Lewis is finding a nice comfort zone with his scores inside the paint.
Forbes’ Christopher Dodson talks about the Pelicans’ defensive struggles this season.
Schematically, Van Gundy initially wanted to build a wall in the paint but his gameplans may have to prioritize the perimeter going forward. The Bulls and Mavericks each hit 25 three-point attempts and both shot better than 50% from deep. Van Gundy revealed after the loss in Dallas the Pelicans switched defensive coverages, he had them drop and also go high on pick and rolls, but “none of it mattered.” That week was a turning point as having “two games like this in a row is inexcusable.”