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NBA Preview: Portland Trail Blazers gunning for redemption against New Orleans Pelicans

Alvin Gentry could have #FullSquadron at his disposal. If so, Dame and CJ’s revenge game may be put on hold.

NBA: Preseason-Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers set the league abuzz and gave Anthony Davis his first playoff series victory. Will the Blazers play nice on Thursday or fire back with an uppercut to the plummeting Pels?

According to AD, a powerful haymaker is incoming so the team needs to be ready.

The Blazers (5-2), fresh off of impressive road victories over the Indiana Pacers (4-3) and Houston Rockets (1-5), head back to the Moda Center to begin a seven-game home stand against our wounded — but healing — Pelicans.

Although the sharpness and confidence wasn’t fully there against the Warriors, Davis is expected to play on the second night of the back-to-back. Plus, there’s a chance Elfrid Payton will also be available.

With Davis’ protection and help defense in place, the Pels will target slowing down Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum once more on the perimeter. Expect Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore to lead that effort with multiple trapping double-teams. Remember, Holiday’s defense in particular limited Lillard to 35% shooting and a four turnover average in the four-game series — this is an All-NBA First Team player we’re talking about.

McCollum was considerably better, especially in New Orleans, where he managed 30 points per game in two games, including 63% overall shooting from the floor. This could be a great early-season test for Payton, but if he’s unable to go Moore will land the assignment.

The Pelicans will again seek to run Jusuf Nurkic off the floor with the Pelicans more mobile group of bigs, but Julius Randle may have a stiffer test against the quickly ascending second-year lottery man, Zach Collins. Through seven games, Collins has been a revelation, compiling 18 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes, with a positive net rating of 10.3 on an insane 60% shooting from the field and 50% from three. These numbers will inevitably regress to the mean — here’s hoping it’s tonight against the Pels!

One thing to know about the Blazers is that they are terrific in the halfcourt, finishing fifth in offensive rating through seven games, fifth in scoring (117 ppg) while carrying the league’s 22nd pace and limiting opponents to 109 points per game, good for 10th in defensive rating.

The Blazers are weakest on the defensive glass, where opponents collect 13 offensive boards per game, and struggle to force turnovers, finishing last with just 11 created turnovers per game. They also have turned it over 15.3 times themselves.

Al-Farouq Aminu (8/8 per game) and Evan Turner (9/5/5) provide the secondary help to the Blazers big three, and the Pelicans need to keep Seth Curry (50% from three) and Nik Stauskus (46% from three) from going supernova.

But the game plan will again be focused on limiting Lillard (30/6/5) and Nurkic (14/10), the focal points on the perimeter and in the paint. While the Pels should have plenty of scoring help, the onus for victory will fall upon the defense of Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. Can Holiday back up his 2017-18 postseason performance, and AD shut down the paint as effectively as he did in the last time facing these Blazers?

New Orleans is 25-30 lifetime against Portland, but have won five of the last eight matchups, excluding the four-game 2018 playoff sweep in the first round. Having lost three straight games, the Pelicans need to get back to their winning ways.

Let’s geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers

Where: Moda Center

When: Thursday, November 1, 2018, 9:30 p.m. Central

How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO