The New Orleans Pelicans are halfway through an improbable sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers after taking the first two games on the road. They outlasted the Blazers in Game 2 as they came out 111-102 winners. Jrue Holiday was once again the hero as he led the way on both ends of the floor with 33 points and nine assists. He just seemed to make every important play for the Pelicans, particularly down the stretch. Anthony Davis had 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo came just short of a triple-double with 16 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists.
As for the Blazers, it was another rough shooting night for their star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The dynamic duo combined for just 39 points on 16-of-39 shooting. Meanwhile, Jusuf Nurkic was limited to a mere 15 minutes and was basically a nonfactor. Although, they did have other members step up. Al-Farouq Aminu had a strong game with 14 points with four 3-pointers and 15 rebounds. Rookie Zach Collins had 12 points off the bench, while Mo Harkless made a significant impact with 11 points and five boards in his first game back in three weeks after knee surgery.
Three keys to the game
Desperation factor - It’s now-or-never time for the Blazers after dropping the first two games on their home floor. Another loss would all but end any hopes they may have of turning this series around. If there’s any time for them to give it all they’ve got, it’s got to come in Game 3.
Damian Lillard - Of course, a lot will still depend on what Dame can provide. The Blazers leader has been completely out of sync in these playoffs, shooting an ungodly 13-of-41 over the first two games. Lillard will need to come out playing like he has for most of the season of the Blazers are almost certainly going out in the first round.
Mo Harkless - Harkless’ effective play in his first game back from knee surgery was a welcome surprise for the Blazers. He was a team-high +10 in 27 minutes on the court and provided a nice spark on both ends of the court. With Evan Turner questionable for Game 3 with a toe injury, Harkless will be even more important. His presence could allow the Blazers to be a bit more versatile with their lineups and match up better with the smaller Pelicans.
Matchup to watch
CJ McCollum vs Jrue Holiday - Holiday has been the MVP of this series thus far. Apart from his reliable offense, he’s been a true difference-maker on the defensive end as well. On the other hand, McCollum has not been able to get into a groove offensively as he and Lillard have been thoroughly outplayed by their Pelicans counterparts. But with the series basically on the line, he’ll need to find a way to outduel the excellent Holiday and lift the Blazers to a big road win.
Blazers projected starting lineup
PG - Damian Lillard | SG - CJ McCollum | SF - Maurice Harkless | PF - Al-Farouq Aminu | C - Jusuf Nurkic
Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Nikola Mirotic | C - Anthony Davis
After two poor offensive games, one of Lillard and McCollum has to snap out of their shooting funk and deliver a vintage fantasy performance. Meanwhile, Aminu could be in store for another big fantasy night after dropping 14 points and 15 boards in Game 2. He played 36 minutes in that game, and with Harkless back in the fold, he will stand to benefit if the Blazers continue to go small.
As for the Pelicans, their big four of Davis, Mirotic, Holiday, and Rondo has played spectacularly over the first two games. You’d think someone has to fall off a bit. It likely won’t be Davis, who is too good not to have a strong fantasy line. But after shooting 50 percent or better in six straight games, Holiday’s insanely hot shooting may be due to finally cool off.
The Blazers just have to win this one. As bad as their backcourt has looked in the first two games, they actually have been right there with the Pelicans late in both games. The sense of desperation will likely be strong in them, and it will help them get that much-needed Game 3 win. Take the Blazers to cover as 3.0-point road underdogs.
Lillard plays a lot better and leads the Blazers to a 108-102 Game 3 victory.
This game will be broadcast on NBA TV. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm Eastern.