The New Orleans Pelicans are on the brink of a stunning sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. After edging out the Blazers in the first two games, the Pelicans inflicted even more punishment in Game 3 as they pounded the Blazers, 119-102. Nikola Mirotic had another brilliant game with 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the field with eight rebounds and three steals. The Pelicans are now 8-0 since Mirotic shaved his trademark beard. Speaking of shaving, The Brow, Anthony Davis, also had himself another terrific night with 28 points, 11 boards, and five stocks (steals and blocks). The backcourt duo of Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo also kept up their excellent play with 16 points apiece as everything continues to go right for the Pelicans.
On the flip-side, it’s still going so horribly wrong for the Blazers. Damian Lillard completed his hat-trick of awful shooting games as he went just 5-of-14 for 20 points. Dame is now shooting a disastrous 33 percent during the series. CJ McCollum had better luck shooting the ball with 22 points on 9-of-16, while Al-Farouq Aminu was the big surprise with 21 points and eight boards. However, Maurice Harkless fell back down to earth after a strong Game 2, and Jusuf Nurkic remains a non-factor in this series as he had just five points in 20 minutes.
Three keys to the game
Blazer pride – This series is, for all intents and purposes, all over. The Blazers aren’t coming back from a 3-0 hole, and they don’t even look capable of making it competitive. But they still have pride to play for. After such a strong season, they’d hate to see it all end in a humiliating sweep. But then again, they got smashed by 18 points in what was a must-win Game 3, so maybe the Blazers need more than just pride to keep up with the Pelicans.
Damian Lillard – What they need is for their star, Damian Lillard, to play more like one. Dame has been one of the biggest disappointments of the NBA Playoffs given how poorly he’s been shooting. He hasn’t been able to figure out the Pelicans’ defense, which has completely thrown him off his game. Even though it may be too late for them to advance, Portland will need nothing short of vintage Lillard to show up to stave off elimination.
Pelicans momentum – Everything is just peachy for the Pelicans at the moment. Their “Big 4” of Davis, Holiday, Rondo, and Mirotic has been playing near-perfect basketball in these playoffs. While they’re almost certain to advance to the next round, the Pelicans should still aim for a sweep. Not only will they get some rest in ahead of the next round, but they’ll also need all the confidence and momentum they’ve built up over the first three games to remain intact ahead of a likely matchup with the Warriors.
Matchup to watch
Jusuf Nurkic vs Anthony Davis – Nurkic didn’t exactly do himself any favors with his poor play this series, especially since he’s set for contract talks in the offseason. It’s likely too late to turn that around now, but he may still be able to get at least one good performance in. Although, Davis has been brilliant all series long and might just as easily play Nurkic out of the game.
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
Aminu is probably the lone Blazer who has given a good account of himself from a fantasy perspective in this series. The versatile big man had 21 points and eight boards in Game 3 and is now averaging a solid 14 points and ten rebounds. He’s the most reliable fantasy player the Blazers have at this point, with McCollum a close second. Lillard also has an outside chance of finally going off, but that’s hardly a given.
As for the Pelicans, Davis, Mirotic, Rondo, and Holiday have been consistent fantasy-wise. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them with the way they’ve been playing.
The Blazers look like a broken shell of a team at this point. It’s hard to imagine them having much fight left in them after getting completely outplayed for the first three games. The Pelicans should be able to put them out of their misery. Take New Orleans to win and cover as 7.0-point home favorites.
The Pelicans complete the sweep of the Blazers as they get the 115-102 win.
This game will be broadcast on TNT. Tip-off is at 5:00 pm Eastern.
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