A lot of anticipation surrounded this series, and game number one of the Pelicans vs the Blazers delivered in spades. The defense of both sides stood out, and it was apt that the game was won by a terrific block by Jrue Holiday in the dying seconds.
Though they only put up 97 points, the Pelicans will be happy with the way their offense functioned. Anthony Davis was dominant, Nikola Mirotic and Holiday continued their good form, and Rajon Rondo dished out 17 assists.
At the other end of the floor, the Trail Blazers have plenty of room for improvement. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both played poorly, and they will be reassured because they only lost by two points despite down performances from their two best players.
Three keys to the game
The Blazers’ backcourt – Combined, Lillard and McCollum went 13-for-41 from the field. Lillard was 1-for-9 at halftime, while McCollum was 0-for-6. The latter recovered to shoot well in the second half, but Lillard was still just 5-for-14 after halftime. If these two continue to play poorly, Portland will find it difficult to overcome the Pelicans.
The Pelicans’ defensive rebounding – New Orleans allowed the Blazers to gobble up far too many offensive rebounds in Game 1. Ed Davis grabbed five and Evan Turner grabbed four as the Blazers won themselves 15 total offensive rebounds throughout the course of the game. This led to 21 points, and the Pelicans were lucky it didn’t cost them a victory. Expect them to be much more focused on this part of the game in Game 2.
Capitalizing on turnovers – Both teams turned it over roughly the same amount of times on Sunday, the Blazers giving it up 12 times and the Pelicans 14. The result was vastly different though. Of the 14 turnovers New Orleans committed, Portland scored 23 points. In contrast, New Orleans scored just nine points from Portland’s 12 turnovers.
Matchup to watch
Jrue Holiday vs Damian Lillard – Holiday spent time playing on each of Portland’s backcourt stars in Game 1, and was terrific defensively throughout. He played a large role in Lillard going 6-for-23 from the floor, and if a similar shooting performance occurs in this one, the result may be the same too. Coming into Game 1 Lillard was in good form though, having scored at least 25 points and averaging 31.3 points through the last three games of the regular season, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him bounce straight back. At the other end of the floor, Holiday was problematic for Portland. He went 10-for-20 from the floor for 21 points and was bested only by Davis as the most prominent scorer on the floor.
Portland Trail Blazers predicted starting lineup
PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Evan Turner | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Nikola Mirotic | C – Anthony Davis
Expect Davis to be the most dominant player on the floor once again in Game 2. He dropped 35 points in Game 1, while also grabbing 14 rebounds, two steals, and four blocks. It wasn’t the first time this season that he’s caused a few problems for Portland, either. After injuring himself early in the first game of the season series and missing the second, he returned to shoot 16-for-23 and score 36 points in the third. Then, in the final regular-season matchup, he shot 15-for-24 for 36 points again, and also added 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and six blocks.
The Pelicans have been given a 6.5 point head start, which might be a little too much for the Blazers to cover. It’s hard to imagine Lillard and McCollum having an equally poor shooting night in Game 2, but this should still be another close game, so back the Pelicans at the line.
We could be in for another close one. New Orleans have a multi-pronged offense which is looking really dangerous, particularly now that Mirotic is involved and is playing well. Davis will once again be unstoppable and put up 30 points to be the dominant scorer on the floor.
At the other end, Lillard and McCollum won’t shoot under 32% from the floor again. Though they lost the game, that both their star shooters were off their game on Sunday and they still only lost by two points bodes well for Portland. At least one of those two will find their groove in this game, and it will be enough for them to sneak over the line. The Blazers will square the series at 1-1 with a 103-99 victory at home.
The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Tip-off is at 10:30pm ET.
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