Team Records: Portland (21-6) at New Orleans (13-12)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: New Orleans -5.5
Refs: James Capers, Derek Richardson, Scott Wall
The Skinny: The Blazers look to build off the 3 OT win in San Antonio Friday night as they travel to New Orleans in the second of a four game road trip. The Blazers come into tonight’s game riding a four game winning streak while the Pelicans have won two straight and three of four. New Orleans’s only loss in that stretch was an OT loss to the Warriors.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers overcame a 16 point deficit to beat New Orleans 102-93. Lillard led Portland with 24 points and 7 assists in the win.
Projected Pelicans Lineup:
PF: Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 3rd season) – 24.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.6 APG
SF: Luke Babbitt (Nevada, 5th season) – 4.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, .4 APG
C: Omer Asik (Turkey, 5th season) – 7.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1 APG
SG: Tyreke Evans (Memphis, 6th season) – 17 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.8 APG
PG: Jrue Holiday (UCLA, 6th season) – 15.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.1 APG
Player to Watch: Jrue Holiday (pictured at right) – Jrue has long been one of my favorite players, ever since his days at UCLA. Jrue is a solid, if not exactly spectacular, NBA point guard, already with a lot of experience even though he’s only 24. Holiday has a good combination of quickness and size and rightly made an all-star game back in 2013. On a team such as New Orleans with more offensive talent than his previous team (Philly), he has thrived, seeing his assists go up and turnovers down. Holiday is also a very solid defender and can be counted on to match up well with many of the NBA’s top PGs. Where Jrue does struggle is twofold. First, he can over-dribble at times, causing the offense to stagnate. Second, he has a penchant for taking long 2s instead of 3s, which given that he’s a decent 3 point shooter, is not an efficient choice. Still, he is rightly one of the pieces New Orleans is building around, and is one of the NBA’s amazing crop of good young PGs.
Did You Know?: The only number New Orleans has retied is #7 for “Pistol” Pete Maravich, in honor of his contributions to basketball in Louisiana. Maravich played for the New Orleans Jazz but never played for the Hornets/Pelicans.
Song of the Day: “City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie-An appropriate song for a team on a long road trip that goes through New Orleans. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-C Robin Lopez (Hand), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Wrist/Knee)
New Orleans: Out-SG Eric Gordon (Shoulder), Questionable-SG Tyreke Evans (Knee)
Re-Evaluating New Orleans: The Right Coach?
Building around Anthony Davis is something any NBA team would love to do. Davis is already perhaps the best PF in the NBA and is only going to get better. The other pieces the Pelicans have aren’t bad either but they have yet to really make the move to playoff contenders. Some of that is not their fault, the west is incredibly tough, they have suffered serious injuries (including Gordon again this year), but some of that blame has to go on head coach Monty Williams. New Orleans is just 3-10 against teams with winning records this year and just 8-7 in games decided by nine points or less. It often seems like the Pelicans are winning because they have talent, not because their coach is actually putting them in the best possible position. Take the game vs. Portland for example. Sure, blowing a big lead will happen at times but New Orleans just didn’t adjust as Portland did. Should the Pelicans fail to make the playoffs again this year, Monty Williams might find himself looking for new work.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: Win the points in the paint battle. New Orleans is the best in the league at defending the paint. If the Blazers can win that battle, they will win the game.
New Orleans wins if: They make at least 10 three-pointers. When the Pelicans do well, they typically make a lot of three-pointers. If they can do so Saturday, they should win.