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Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Trail Blazers

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Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Pelicans will do battle with the Trail Blazers for the second time in less than 10 days. On December 21, Portland narrowly won the game in the Moda Center, 110-107.

The Blazers have a 12-3 record away from home but are coming off heart-breaking defeat Saturday to the Miami Heat. Despite no LeBron James, they were outscored by six in the final frame thanks to some incredible shot-making by Chris Bosh.

This time around, the Pelicans should have the services of Jason Smith but probably not Eric Gordon:

Pelicans G Eric Gordon (hip contusion) a game time decision tonight vs. . However, chances of him playing "are very slim," I'm told.

With the likelihood of one less perimeter shooter, it will be even more important New Orleans gets to the charity stripe AND converts. Against the Blazers, the Pels went 13-19; in fact, since that game, the Hornets have gone 6-8, 10-15 and 23-27 form the line. That's a 4 game average of 17.25 attempts and a 75 FT%. And, as you may surmise, the recent game against the Denver Nuggets strongly buoyed those already pitiful statistics. For comparison's sake, the Spurs and the Knicks average a league-worst 18.4 free throw attempts a game.

Another deciding factor will probably be how Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson fare defensively. During the last four game stretch, Monty Williams has had Anderson guard the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard -- usually in single coverage. The why isn't that much in question as Davis provides for pretty much the only choice for weakside help and it's better to keep our best rebounder near the rim and out of foul trouble.

Rather, it's what the Pelicans do as a team to alleviate the obvious mismatch. In our last game, David pointed out that our guards and Aminu did a solid job of digging at Howard in the first half. They need to ensure they stick to that principle throughout the game.

Additionally, everyone has to rebound on close to every possession. Lately, the defensive rebounding has been lacking and we can't be giving solid opponents additional offensive chances. The transition game shouldn't suffer terribly. Between our opportunistic defense and the sheer footspeed of many of our players, the Pelicans should still be able to convert a number of easy points.

If New Orleans gets to the line their fair share of times, assist Mr. Anderson and take care of their responsibilities on the glass, the Pelicans might notch their most impressive victory on the season.