Game On: Portland Trailblazers at New Orleans Pelicans

Published: December 30, 2013

It’s time for the moral victories to end, and the real victories to begin. Last week, the Pelicans went into Portland and had that game firmly within their grasp. With the Pelicans up two late, Damian Lillard took a charge and then hit a deep three to put Portland ahead for good. Another moral victory for the Pelicans that counted as a loss in the standings.

Tonight has to be different.

The Trailblazers are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Heat at home, and are likely emotionally spent. The Pelicans are at home, where their defense has actually been average and their role players tend to step up. Whether Gordon plays tonight or not, there are no excuses. This team needs to start actually winning these games, and to win tonight they will have to do the following:

1. Be Competitive in the Free Throw Battle

Over the last five games, it has been embarrassing. On average, the Pelicans opponents have shot 30.4 free throw attempts while the Pelicans have shot 17.8. It is hard to win games when your opponent gets 13 more free shots and your guys are in foul trouble while theirs are not. Both of these teams are jump shooting teams, and at some point, jump shots stop falling. In addition, there is a big drop off from the top five players to the bottom five players on both these rosters. The team that can get the other teams’ key players in foul trouble will be at a big advantage. To repeat: GET TO THE LINE! (And keep them off it)

2. Get a Body on Robin Lopez

When a shot goes up, the Pelicans need to find Robin Lopez and push him under the basket. Aldridge and others are always drifting out on the perimeter. Lopez, meanwhile, stays around the paint and eats up the offensive glass. In the last game, he had six offensive rebounds and the Trailblazers killed the Pelicans in second chance points. The Pelicans had the best success when the guy covering Lopez just pushed him under the basket and let someone else grab the board. It is a strategy they have used on Z-Bo as well. Smith or Anderson can’t box out Lopez AND grab the board. So just push him away and let another guy grab it.

3. Defend the Arc

The differences in the Blazers losses are clear. They shoot 8% worse from three in their losses and they grab 7% fewer defensive rebounds. Teams who beat the Blazers make them take contested three-point shots and crash the offensive glass. It is a formula that the Pelicans are more than capable of doing with regard to the offensive rebounds. And in the last meeting, they showed that they can defend the arc, as the Blazers went just 8-29. Do it again, and tonight is a win. A real win.


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