Not that long ago, Portland was flying high with one of the best records in the NBA. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard were being showered with praise, sure-fire All-Stars who seemed destined to lead their team on a deep post-season run. Coming into tonight, they've lost 4 straight, for the second time within a month, and they are primed to continue falling from the 5th seed in the West with the Warriors nipping on their heels and the Grizzlies mounting a late season push.
Why have the Trail Blazers fallen down the rankings? Reality. For the first 3+ months, they had absolutely no injury issues and were riding some magnificent shooting performances. Welp, regression has come knocking (check out Wesley Matthews splits before/after the All-Star break) plus the bumps and bruises have finally taken a toll on Aldridge and Mo Williams, both of whom are slated to miss the game Friday.
The Pelicans were on a 3 game win streak before falling to the Grizzlies Wednesday, so look for what should be a close competitive game.
3 Things to Watch For:
- Anthony Davis. In his last 4 games, AD is averaging 29.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 blocks. Without Aldridge in the game, Thomas Robinson will be the first man up attempting to stop our beast. If Davis gets off to a fast start, will Coach Stotts take a page out of prior games by pressuring Davis all over the floor with either Nicolas Batum or Dorell Wright? Will Davis and the team be more apt to handle it?
- Trail Blazer's shot selection. As it was mentioned earlier, Portland has been slumping and they've been having difficulties scoring efficiently. Without two key members of the rotation, will Damian Lillard try to shoulder the load (he's attempted 20+ shots the last several games)? With less options, the Pelicans should be more able to key in on the Blazers perimeter orientated game. Will Monty give Brian Roberts the quick hook if Lillard gets out of the gates fast?
- In-the-paint battle. On the season, Portland has one of the best differentials inside the paint but their advantage has significantly fallen of late. Without Aldridge, the opportunity should be there for the Pelicans to take control of the middle. Will the team be able to spread the floor enough so that Robin Lopez isn't able to keep the conversion rates of say Tyreke Evans or Austin Rivers to an uncomfortable minimum?