Game On: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trailblazers

Published: December 21, 2013

If you look at the standings, the outcome of this game seems set. The Blazers are 22-5 overall and 10-2 at home. The Pelicans, meanwhile, have not beaten a team with a record over .500 this year, and are 4-8 on the road (including 0-3 on their current road trip). You dig a little deeper, though, and you can see the makings of an upset in the works.

The Pelicans have their full arsenal of weapons back, and they have had a few days to practice since Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers. When the Pelicans have every member of their Big Five, their offensive rating and pace goes through the roof. Meanwhile, Portland has allowed an average of 110.8 points per game over the last five games.

In all likelihood, we are looking at a shootout. If the Pelicans want to win that shootout, they will have to do the following:

1. Win the Turnover Battle

The Blazers don’t turn opposing teams over (dead last in the NBA), but they don’t turn it over either (4th best) either. Batum is the only guy in the starting lineup who has had turnover issues this season, but some of the guys on the bench have been turnover prone this year. If the Pelicans can get some of the starters in foul trouble (specifically Lillard), they can get to that bench and possibly win the turnover battle.

2. Keep the Blazers off the Offensive Glass

Portland is slightly below average on the defensive glass, but they are elite on the offensive boards – mostly due to Robin Lopez. Lopez has benefitted from all the attention that his teammates get, and his offensive rebound rate is at a career high 14.2%. The lack of turnovers and the high rate of offensive rebounds gives this team more opportunities than their opponent almost every night, and when you combine that with a 51.5 eFG%, you can see why they are the top offensive team in the league.

3. Win the Battle of the Big Five

The Pelicans Big Five has been remarkable this year, but they have only got to play together for 71 minutes, due to injuries and Monty’s rotational decisions. Meanwhile, the Blazers starting five have not had a single injury and have gotten to play 532 minutes together. The Blazers Big Five is +10.9 per 48 minutes, while the Pelicans Big Five is +13.5. We know that the Blazers will put their best unit on the court for 20+ minutes tonight. Will Monty do the same?

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