The Portland Trail Blazers have dug themselves an 0-2 hole in their first-round matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans. To make matters worse, Portland dropped both of those games at home, and now play the next two in New Orleans.
On paper, the two teams are relatively evenly matched. Both sides have MVP candidates in Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
What’s gone wrong for the Blazers in these two home losses?
The first matchup the Blazers tried utilizing a method that has worked for Portland in the past. In two wins over the defending champion Warriors this season, Kevin Durant had 40 and 50 points respectively, and the rest of the Warriors were relatively held in check. They tried this again by letting Anthony Davis score all he wants and contain everyone else.
However, in game one against the Pelicans, this strategy backfired.
⬐ GAME ONE HIGHLIGHTS (Courtesy of NBA Youtube) GAME TWO HIGHLIGHTS (Courtesy of NBA Youtube) ⬎
The loss was mostly due to Portland’s star backcourt combo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum shooting poorly the whole game. The duo averaged 48 points combined for the season but in game one they totaled 27 points on 13-41 shooting. The Blazers let Anthony Davis dominate game one as planned, and he finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds.
The Portland backcourt improved slightly in game two, scoring a total of 39 points. Davis still dominated, but not at the level of game one; he contributed 22 points and 13 rebounds. Jrue Holiday carried the scoring load for New Orleans with 33 points.
In what has been an up and down season for the Blazers, I’m not sure what to expect going into games three and four. Portland is more talented overall in my opinion. Their downfall is that they do not match up well with New Orleans.
I fully expect Lillard to break his slump and play great in game three tonight and possibly game four. The difference in the next two games will be the defense for Portland. The offense will come and go as it has all season. If this team can commit to playing tough defense for 48 minutes, they will put themselves in a position to win.
Although Portland doesn’t have anyone that can matchup with Anthony Davis, (nobody in the league does) they could at least make it difficult for him. If Davis goes off for another massive game in game three or four, the Pelicans are likely to win. That is Portland’s 6-foot-10-inch problem.
Video Credit: NBA Youtube