A pair of Western Conference foes battling for playoff position lock up in the Big Easy. The Portland Trail Blazers are on the road again as they travel to face the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night. Portland dropped a 121-112 decision on the road to the Rockets Wednesday night. New Orleans is coming off a 105-102 road loss to Memphis in their last contest Wednesday. The Trail Blazers have a 29-24 edge in the all-time regular season series between the teams: they’ve split two meetings this season with the Pelicans taking a 123-116 win in Portland in the last matchup on December 2.
Line: Portland -2
Portland Trail Blazers Continue Road Swing
Portland dropped to 1-1 on their four game road trip as they were unable to hang with the Rockets on the road. The Trail Blazers stand four games behind the Timberwolves in the Northwest Division and stand fifth in the Western Conference entering Thursday. Portland trailed by six after the opening quarter and by 10 at the half: they were unable to draw closer than three the rest of the way. The Trail Blazers shot 48.2 percent from the field and went nine of 26 from three point range in the contest. Portland was led by Damian Lillard, who had 29 points and eight assists in the loss.
The Trail Blazers come into this one 21st in the league in scoring with 103.5 points per game. The Trail Blazers are 9th in the league in rebounding as they collect 44.6 boards a night. Portland is 30th in the league in assists with 18.8 per contest. The Trail Blazers are above average defensively as they come in 7th in the league by allowing 102.4 points a night. Damian Lillard is leading the team in scoring for the Blazers as he rings up 25 points per game while dishing out 6.4 assists per contest. Lillard missed five games with a strained hamstring before returning against the Cavaliers January 2. He missed the game against the Spurs and is questionable here. CJ McCollum (21.6 points) and Maurice Harkless are both veteran options for the Blazers. Al-Farouq Aminu (9.4 points, 6.6 rebounds), Jusuf Nurkic (14.6 points, eight rebounds), Pat Connaughton, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and Evan Turner (8.7 points, 3.6 rebounds) all contribute solidly on the offensive end for Portland’s attack. Portland is tied for 21st in the league in field goal percentage by shooting 45.1 percent from the floor. The Trail Blazers are knocking down 9.4 three pointers a night, which is tied for 20th in the league, while ranking 8th in the league by shooting 37.3 percent from downtown.
New Orleans Pelicans Look to Win in Return Home
New Orleans fell for the fourth time in six games as they were dropped by Memphis on the road in a division contest. The Pelicans try to regroup at home and hope to have Anthony Davis back in the mix. New Orleans entered Thursday holding the final playoff spot in the West, one game ahead of the ninth-place Clippers. The Pelicans led by nine after the opening quarter and by one at the half before being done in by a nine point third quarter. New Orleans had a chance late but turned the ball over down one with seven seconds to go: E’Twaun Moore missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. The Pelicans shot 44.2 percent from the field, including 11 of 35 from three point range, and missed 11 of their 34 three point attempts. DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points to lead New Orleans in the loss.
The Pelicans are 4th in the league in scoring offense with 110.6 points per game. The Pelicans are 18th in rebounding with 42.5 boards per game while ranking 2nd with 26.4 assists per contest. New Orleans is 28th in scoring defense as they give up 110.8 points per contest. Anthony Davis is second on the Pelicans in scoring with 25.8 points to go with 10.3 rebounds and 2.06 blocks per game. DeMarcus Cousins (25.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, five assists) playing alongside Davis is a nice 1-2 punch but the Pelicans need other guys to contribute. That means Jameer Nelson, Jrue Holiday (17.9 points, 5.1 assists), Ian Clark, Dante Cunningham, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen and E’Twaun Moore (13.3 points) all have to step up and put the ball in the hole as Davis and Cousins can’t do it alone. Allen and Solomon Hill are both out of the lineup until the new year at least, thinning their rotation a bit. New Orleans is 2nd in field goal percentage shooting 48.9 percent from the floor. The Pelicans are tied for 9th with 11.1 made threes per game and stand 7th in the league by converting 37.5 percent from long range this season.
- Trail Blazers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS loss
- Trail Blazers are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- Pelicans are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game
- Pelicans are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 Friday games
- Pelicans are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record
Both teams come into this one off losses but the Trail Blazers are in a little better shape health-wise. The Trail Blazers were glad to see Lillard back in action after he missed time with a strained hamstring as he led them against Houston in a losing effort. The Pelicans, for all their hot shooting that has moved them up the league rankings, still don’t play defense all that well and their rotation is kind of thin as far as solid contributors go. Look for Portland to come away with a victory in this contest.
Pick: Portland Trail Blazers
The Pelicans are dealing with injuries that have taken a toll on their rotation and one of them affects one of the league’s superstars. Davis is dealing with an ankle sprain that happened in the third quarter against the Pistons and missed the Memphis game: he’s questionable here. Allen had another setback in his recovery from his broken leg and will be out until at least mid-February while Hill hopes to return around that time. If Lillard stays on the floor, Portland is pretty healthy at the moment, which works in their favor here. The McCollum/Lillard duo is tough for any team to matchup with on the defensive end of the floor.
The under is 6-1 in the Trail Blazers’ last 7 Friday games and 6-1 in their last 7 games following a straight up loss. New Orleans has seen the under go 4-0 in their last 4 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game, 6-1-1 in their last 8 vs. a team with a winning straight up record, 4-1 in their last 5 overall and 4-1 in their last 5 games following an ATS loss. With Davis’s status up in the air, plus Portland’s mediocre offensive attack this season, lead toward the under here.