Dec 21, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket on New Orleans Pelicans forward Alexis Ajinca (12) and shooting guard Austin Rivers (25) during the first quarter of the game at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans


 

The Portland Trail Blazers (24-6) visit the Big Easy tonight to take on the New Orleans Pelicans (13-15), in this second of four regular season match ups. The Trail Blazers won the first match up in Portland 110-107 and are looking to rebound from a heartbreaking loss against the Miami Heat two days ago.

The Blazers had the Heat down and out on Saturday night but couldn’t close the door. Wesley Matthews was not happy after the loss:

 

“We’ve been tops in the league in the last four minutes of close games. It sucks that we controlled everything that happened. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves. It’ll be tough to sleep tonight.” – via Kerry Eggers, NBA.com

 

Talk about heartbreak. The Blazers had a day off yesterday and look to get back on track in New Orleans. But this New Orleans team is feisty and will be ready to avenge a loss in Portland just nine days ago. In that game, the Pelicans played the Blazers back and forth for much of the contest. The Pelicans even had two chances to tie the game on the last possession but missed both. This one, down in the bayou, should be another entertaining meeting.

 

Injury News:

Portland Trail Blazers:

  • CJ McCollum (broken foot) will continue to be on the sideline.

New Orleans Pelicans:

  • Eric Gordon (hip contusion) will be a game-time decision.
  • Greg Stiemsma (sprained left MCL) will be out with the injury he sustained last month.

 

Keys To The Game:

Damian Lillard vs Eric Gordon/Tyreke Evans: In the first match up, Damian Lillard led all scorers with 29 points. His counterparts on the other team combined for 39 points (Gordon, 18 & Evans, 21). This guard match up will be the one to watch tonight. All three of these players are young and talented. When Lillard is paired up against quality guards, his play typically goes through the roof. We will see if he can continue that trend tonight.

Bench production has to increase. Last meeting between these two teams, the Blazers bench added 20 points. For the Blazers to stay effective, the bench must come up with more. However, it doesn’t stop on the offensive end. The bench players must hold the Pelicans second unit in check, as they rattled off 30 points in the previous meeting.

Win and move on. This is the first game of a back-to-back for the Blazers. Tomorrow they will fly into Oklahoma City where the Thunder will be awaiting them. That game is much more important then tonight’s match up but the Blazers must first secure a win, then move on and prepare for Kevin Durant and his squad.

 

 

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