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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans chasing season sweep of Portland Trail Blazers

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It’s been eight days since Zion Williamson played meaningful basketball. Basketball fans high and low are beyond ready!

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Following a week lay-off for the All-Star break, the New Orleans Pelicans are going to be back in action Friday night against the Trail Blazers, and they’re probably not the least bit sour about needing to travel and play in Portland.

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Pelicans have owned the Blazers this season with a 3-0 record and will be looking for the series sweep. Moreover, Damian Lillard announced that he’s likely out for the next handful of games.

Everyone knows Lillard has been the heart and soul of the Blazers for years, but he’s never been better. According to 538’s Raptor rating, no one’s been a bigger offensive weapon than Dame to date, and he’s tied for second overall in Raptor WAR (wins above replacement).

Already once on the season a Lillard-less Blazers squad has faced — and lost — their matchup with the Pelicans. However, don’t dismiss them entirely. Despite the win earlier on the season inside the Moda Center, the Pelicans have lost 14 of their last 17 contests in Portland. CJ McCollum is apt to handle a big load of the scoring, a motivated Hassan Whiteside could pose a problem down low, and they’ve got some role players who have enjoyed solid scoring nights in Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Gary Trent. You’ve also got to believe the captain will have his team fired up despite needing to sit this one out.

Portland is going to be fighting for their lives, with the team’s veterans knowing full well the importance of grabbing the victory. As for New Orleans, one just hopes they have the requisite focus. This means avoiding a slew of turnovers, leaving opponents wide open on the perimeter and limiting second chance points — all things that can lead to instant momentum for the Trail Blazers.

Fortunately for the Pelicans, they expect their preferred starting lineup to march out there as Brandon Ingram should be good to roll without restrictions.

Only 27 contests remain and yet New Orleans sits 5.5 games in back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed. The Trail Blazers have posted a 102.6 Offensive Rating and a 111.7 Defensive Rating in 702 minutes without Damian Lillard. The Pelicans must take advantage of that really poor -9.4 Net Rating. Let Zion Williamson dominate the paint, Lonzo Ball push the pace and have the rest of the guys fill their roles neatly behind that attack.

Geaux Pels!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (23-32) at Portland Trail Blazers (25-31)

Where: Moda Center, Portland

When: Tuesday, February 21, 2020, 9:30 PM

Watch: FOX Sports New Orleans, ESPN

Listen: ESPN Radio 100.3 FM