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The Bird Calls Podcast Ep. 109: Pelicans use smothering defense to stifle Trail Blazers’ backcourt

Immediate reaction to New Orleans big game one victory!

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One

Exhale Pelicans fans, as your hometown team just became the first road team to steal a victory in the first round, and Anthony Davis finally has that first playoff win under his belt.

In a game where both teams struggled on the offensive side of the floor, the Pelicans’ dictated this matchup on the “other” end. The defense culminated with a critical Jrue Holiday steal of CJ McCollum, a stop of Damian Lillard and an all too familiar final minute block of Pat Connaughton.

Of course, the lead almost fully evaporated, as a 19-point third quarter lead became just one at 93-92. However, after those defensive stops, Anthony Davis was able to seal the win with four consecutive free throws.

Anthony Davis contributed his MVP average against the Blazers of 35 and 14, to go along with four blocks and two steals, but the Pelicans ‘help’ defense, trapping, and double teams sparked this victory.

Rajon Rondo stayed up all night watching film, according to Davis, and routinely called out the Blazers’ sets before they took form. “Playoff Rondo,” was in full effect as he captained the squad with 17 assists, to go along with eight critical rebounds.

The Pelicans capitalized in holding Damian Lilliard and CJ to an astounding 1/15 shooting from the field in the first half. The two would come to life late, ultimately generating 19 and 18 points respectively, but a shy playoff whistle kept them from getting the opportunities to get comfortable.

The Dame/CJ combo average 10.5 foul shots per game, but in Saturday night’s matchup, the two teams combined for just 22 free throw attempts in all, nine of which were taken by Anthony Davis.

Like in recent games against the Spurs and the Clippers, the Pelicans dominated midway through the second quarter, with a 14-0 run, utilizing their defensive strengths to gather four live ball turnovers in five possessions. Jrue took the assignment of guarding Dame for much of the night, though he and E’Twaun Moore would share responsibilities on both Dame AND CJ.

Rondo was badly beaten by Shapazz Napier on consecutive possessions in the third, but the coaching staff smartly placed him on Evan Turner soon after. Turner took the bait, only to meet the NBA’s best help defender in the paint on nearly every possession.

The Blazers did collect 15 offensive rebounds, which assisted them mightily in their quest to dictate the pace, as they held the Pelicans to just 86 shots, and make a huge dent in the Pelicans’ lead.

The Blazers used those second chance opportunities, as well as the Pelicans’ 15 turnovers to take 12 more shots (98), but shooting 37.8% from the field did not help in that regard.

Join @OlehKosel, @kevinbforbounce, and @DMGrubb, as they break down this matchup, weigh it against history, and discuss how the Blazers will counter in Game Two.

We will have another episode with Portland experts, Steven Dewald tonight, and David McKay tomorrow!

To follow them, and get an enemy’s perspective, head over to

Let’s Geaux Pels!