In their second game of the regular season, the Pelicans were run off the court by the Blazers, 112-94. Portland blitzed New Orleans in their home opener, leading 43-18 after just the first quarter. C.J. McCollum scored 22 points in those first 12 minutes and finished with a career high of 37.
Since that forgettable game, the Blazers have gone streaking. They kicked November off with 3 straight wins, followed with a 7-game losing streak, then won 3 of 4, and most recently, have lost 5 of their last 8. This past Saturday, they narrowly lost at home to the Knicks, 112-110. Carmelo Anthony torched them for 37 points on 21 shot attempts.
The Blazers heavily rely on their 8th ranked offense which is led by Damian Lillard (24.4 points per game) and C.J. McCollum (19.9 points per game). Conversely, their defense is mired in the bottom third of the league, but not unexpected as Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge were replaced during the off-season by McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard and Miles Plumlee.
3 Keys to Victory
- Slow down the starting backcourt. Lillard and McCollum have combined for 49.7 points on a 48.2 FG percentage in their wins; in losses, those figures plummet to 40.7 points and a 38.8 FG%. Therefore, it seems rather elementary, but as we know, the Pelicans defense is liable to screwup even the most straightforward of tasks. That can't be the case Monday night if New Orleans wants to escape with the win.
- Defend the 3-point line. With a potent backcourt, it's not a surprise the Blazers rank 4th in the league in both three-point field goals made and attempted. What's important to note, however, is that when Portland has shot for a better 3FG% than opponents, their record is 8-3. Getting out to the shooters should be circled in large red ink by the coaching staff.
- Win the defensive rebounding battle. Thanks to their athleticism, the Trail Blazers are a strong defensive rebounding team, averaging 33.9 per game. When they finish with more defensive boards than opponent's they have a record of 8-5. Conversely, the Pelicans have an even more impressive 6-2 record when they win this decisive rebounding battle. Come up big Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik.
The Pelicans next four games are all on the road against Western Conference foes; however, the list lacks the most fearsome teams. The Trail Blazers are currently 10th in the standings, the Jazz 8th, the Suns 9th and the Nuggets 11th. Their combined record is a paltry 40-55. If the Pelicans have any hope of making up lost ground, they need to start beating plenty of teams from the lower tier.