Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans


Dec 30, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans small forward Al-Farouq Aminu (0) and center Greg Stiemsma (34) during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Trail Blazers 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight at 6:00 p.m. PDT, the Portland Trail Blazers (49-28) look for their 50th win of the season as they host the New Orleans Pelicans (32-44). The Trail Blazers have taken two out of three this season against the Pelicans and will try to hand New Orleans their fifth straight loss. With only five games remaining in the the regular season, the Trail Blazers hope to clinch a playoff berth tonight.

Friday was the first opportunity for the Trail Blazers to secure their spot in the playoffs. After winning four consecutive games, the Trail Blazers faced off against the Suns, another team looking for a playoff spot. Through three quarters, the game favored the Trail Blazers. That was until they were held to 13 fourth quarter points. A complete lapse in focus and execution gave the game to Phoenix (109-93) and set the Trail Blazers another game behind the fourth place Rockets.

The Pelicans have struggled away from home and could be without their leading scorer tonight. Anthony Davis left Friday’s game in Utah with back spasms. He did return in the third quarter but this is the third time he’s dealt with spasms in the past three days. The lone win for the Pelicans in the season series came via a last second jumper from Tyreke Evans. Recent history also stands in the way of a Pelicans win tonight as New Orleans hasn’t won in Portland since 2010.

Injury News

Portland Trail Blazers:

New Orleans Pelicans:

  • Anthony Davis has been dealing with back spasms. His status for tonight’s game is questionable.
  • Eric Gordon is not expected to travel to Portland for tonight’s game. He sat out of Friday’s game in Utah with tendinitis in his left knee.
  • Jrue Holiday had surgery on his right tibia in February and will miss the rest of the season.
  • Ryan Anderson is out with a herniated cervical disc that will require surgery.
  • Jason Smith had surgery on his right knee in January and is out for the rest of the season.

Keys To The Game

Damian Lillard vs. Brian Roberts. Lillard is averaging 28.3 points against the Pelicans this season, while shooting 51.8 percent. Any one who follows the Trail Blazers or Lillard knows his shooting percentage is normally pretty pathetic, yet he seems to shoot it well against the Pelicans. Lillard only shot 38.5 percent against the Suns on Friday and ended with 15 points in 38 minutes of action. With Eric Gordon likely out, Lillard will probably play opposite of Brian Roberts, who I’m guessing you’ve never heard of. Roberts is a second year player out of Dayton who is averaging 9.7 points this season. In two games against Portland, Roberts has bumped up his play and averaged 11.5 points on 50.0 percent shooting. Lillard should have the upper hand in this match-up and I hope to see him exploit it.

Points In The Paint. In Friday’s loss to the Suns, the Trail Blazers were outscored 48-32 in the paint. Paint production isn’t the strongest asset for the Trail Blazers but it should be at least a concern. Giving up 48 points to the Suns, who are 12th in the league in points in the paint average (42.4), was a big factor in the loss. New Orleans averages 45.5 points in the paint and should give the Trail Blazers plenty of headaches. The only thing going for the Trail Blazers is the questionable status of Anthony Davis. Davis has averaged 28.0 points against the Trail Blazers this season.

Free Throws. Throughout the season, the Trail Blazers have been one of the best from the charity stripe. In fact, the Trail Blazers are first in the league in free throw percentage at 81.7 percent. In a very uncharacteristic manner, Portland was 17-27 (63.0 percent) from the line in Friday’s loss. They say it’s the little things that kill you and it that proved to be accurate. If the Trail Blazers want to contend in the playoffs, they will have to be flawless in every aspect of the game.

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