Game On: Pels at Blazers

What a week for the Pelicans.  Just last Friday the Pels were coming off a 4 game losing streak and sat 3 and half games behind OKC.  That night the Pels got a much needed win against the Sacramento Kings to stay within striking distance of the 8th seed.  Then just last night the Pelicans ran into the Kings again and extended their winning streak to 4, bringing them just a half game behind the Thunder.  Since the Pelicans own the tie-breaker that means New Orleans effectively controls its own destiny.  Every game matters at this point, but the best way to handle it is to just take it one at a time, and tonight the Pelicans have a tough matchup away against one of the best teams at home in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers (30-8 at home).

The Pelicans are 0-2 against Portland this season, but the last matchup (a 115-88 thumping of NO) was back in December.  Holiday was still playing, Gordon was out, Babbitt was starting, and Austin Rivers, Jimmer, and Russ Smith were the backcourt backups.  Needless to say the team looks a little different nowadays.  New Orleans is 6-14 all time in Portland, and haven’t won there since 2010, but a win tonight would give the Pelicans a season high 3-game road winning streak.

Portland has not been playing its best basketball down the stretch.  The Blazers are 13-9 since the All-Star break, and are 8-7 after the loss of starting 2-guard Wesley Matthews for the season.  Here are a couple things the Pelicans will need to key in on to come away with a victory in Portland:

  • Since the All-Star Break the Pelicans are averaging the same amount of points per game on the road as they are at home, and a big reason why is the 3-pt line.  In 11 road games the Pelicans are shooting 44.2% from deep on over 20 shots a night.  A prime example was last night’s game in Sactramento, where the Pels overall did not shoot well (39.1% from the field), but managed to knock down 14 of 29 3’s.  The Trail Blazers, since the All-Star Break, are the 25th ranked team in Opponent 3pt FG%.  They also take the 2nd most 3PA per game in the NBA, the Pels will need to at the very least keep the 3pt battle close to have a chance.
  • How will the team continue to adjust to the return of Ryan Anderson.  He has been back for two games now, one pretty good, and one pretty bad.  If that trend continues tonight he’ll have a good one and we’ll come away with a win … right?
  • On paper these two teams seem to match up very well, Lillard and Afflalo to Evans and Gordon, Aldridge v Davis, Lopez v Asik, Kaman and Leonard v Anderson and Ajinca, Batum v Pondexter, etc etc.  Both are coming off back to backs and really both rely on their All-Star big men, and that’s what this game will come down to.  Davis has had two off nights in a row now (by his own standards).  If he can make life difficult for Aldridge and break out a little on the offensive end (46.4% from the field over his last 5), the Pels will at least have a shot to take over the 8th spot.

Tip off is for 9, Flock Up and enjoy the game!

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