Team Records: New Orleans (11-13) at Portland (22-5)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -9
Refs: Ron Garretson, Brent Barnaky, Sean Wright
The Skinny: Fresh off a successful 3-1 road trip during the past week, the Blazers return home for their last game before a four-day Christmas break. They face a New Orleans team that has been struggling with injuries all year. Much like his former boss Nate McMillan, head coach Monty Williams has been forced to be creative with his lineups due to injury, using a lot of different combinations and doing a decent job of it considering. New Orleans enters this game having lost three in a row on the road all to quality opponents (DEN, GSW and LAC).
Last Season: New Orleans won the season series 2-1, winning both games in New Orleans and losing the only one in Portland. It was only their second season series win over the Blazers in the last six seasons.
Projected Pelicans Lineup:
PF: Ryan Anderson (California, 6th season) – 21.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, .7 APG
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest, 4th season) – 6.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG
C: Jason Smith (Colorado State, 7th season) – 10.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, .8 APG
SG: Eric Gordon (Indiana, 7th season) – 15.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.2 APG
PG: Jrue Holiday (UCLA, 5th season) – 15.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 8.1 APG
Player to Watch: Eric Gordon (pictured at right) – Eric Gordon really did not want to leave the Clippers. He was playing well there, he liked the lifestyle but when Gordon was moved as part of the CP3 trade a few years ago, he was forced to make a change. He didn’t exactly adapt well, repeatedly making it clear he wanted out and then, when he did play, getting hurt. Gordon played in only 51 games his first two years in New Orleans but he has steadied himself his year. Gordon is a streaky shooter with the ability to either shoot his team into, or out of, every game. When Gordon is going well, he can be dangerous but when he is off, well you want him to keep shooting if you’re that night’s opponent. Let’s hope its the later Saturday.
Did You Know?: Much like the Blazers, New Orleans has feasted on the weak Eastern conference this season, going 7-2 so far, and only 4-11 vs. the west.
Song of the Day: “The Pelican Song” by FOG-In honor of the newly renamed Pelicans we present this song which just consists of repeating the word “Pelican” over and over again to a jaunty tune. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
New Orleans: Out – C Greg Stiemsma (Knee)
New Orleans’s Game:
Well that was a quick rebuild for New Orleans. The Pelicans announced they were done with this whole rebuild thing during the draft when they traded for Jrue Holiday and made clear that they would be making a playoff push this year. It hasn’t exactly gone to plan so far this year, mostly due to injuries to Anthony Davis and others. New Orleans is a medium-pace and very efficient offensive team, ranking 8th overall in offensive efficiency. They are especially effective from three, shooting 38% and making nearly seven threes a game. New Orleans also does a good job passing the ball to the open shooter and they rarely turn the ball over. On defense New Orleans struggles with a defense that is near the bottom of the league. New Orleans allows a league-worst 1.26 points per shot and is not particularly good at stopping you from anywhere on the court. When they have Davis, they can at least keep you from attacking the rim but if he is indeed out Saturday, they should struggle against Portland’s high-powered offense.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: Score at least 100 points. New Orleans is 4-12 when teams score 100 or more on them. If the Blazers can hit the century mark they should win fairly easily.
New Orleans wins if: They make at least 10 three-pointers. When the Pelicans do well, they typically make a lot of three-pointers. With questionable inside scoring, the Pelicans will have to be feeling it from deep to have a chance Saturday.