Game On: Blazers @ Pelicans

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Published: March 14, 2014

Tonight the Pelicans catch a break. (and for once, not the bone or back or tendon type) After a scorching start to the season, the Trailblazers have fallen back to earth, winning just nine of their last twenty games. They have struggled even more over the last five, winning just a single game against a tough slate of opponents, and worse, they lost LaMarcus Aldridge for up to two weeks to a back injury.

To be honest, though it improves the chances of a Pelicans win, it disappoints me a little. I enjoy the hell out of watching Davis match up against the better scoring bigs in the game – and Aldridge’s skills seem to play to Davis’ strengths. Secretly, I was hoping to watch a demolition – another dessicated corpse left behind by the heat of Anthony Davis’ supernova.

Ah well.

It does introduce a new wrinkle to the game, however. Memphis slowed Anthony by putting a quick-footed small forward on him to deny ball entry – and then had one of their bigs cheat consistently to Davis’ side of the court for immediate help if he did catch. With Aldridge out, it’s probable the Blazers won’t ride Meyers Leonard, but instead shift Batum to power forward, and we’ll get to see again how Davis handles a quicker opponent. (though Portland probably won’t cheat so egregiously towards AD if just one of Gordon or Evans is healthy tonight.)

Keys to the Game:

  • Make Lillard a driver.  When Ryan Anderson was playing, announcers always said the way to guard him was to make him put the ball on the floor.  The same is true for Lillard.  He’s a deadly shooter, and can play okay at the top in the pick and roll, but if you make him drive to the basket, his effectiveness plummets.  Lillard drives to the hoop 7.9 times per game, shoots 40.3% on those drives, and generates 9.0 points for himself and his teammates combined on those possessions.  That’s fairly weak for a high-volume driver and much less effective than when he’s shooting in rhythm.  Make him move.
  • Protect the ball.  The Trailblazers have been terrible at forcing turnovers all season long.  The Blazers are a potent offensive team – don’t make it easier on them to score by giving them easy transition looks.  All of their wing players can bury it from deep in transition.
  • Let loose Babbitt.  Without Aldridge (and Freeland), the Blazers are a small team.  Babbitt should be effective against a team that struggles to defend the three point line and has no bigs to punish him inside.  See if the former Trailblazer has some feelings of revenge in him.

Enjoy the Game!

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