Portland Trail Blazers vs New Orleans Pelicans -3.5 Total: 215

The Blazers and Pelicans enter Game 3 of their Conference Quarterfinal series with the Pelicans up 2-0 with both of their wins coming in Portland.  The Blazers have had no answer for the Pelicans starting five as Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic have all had big games. The Blazers on the other hand have been let down by their top two players in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who are shooting just 31.7-percent and 41.0-percent from the floor respectively.  If Portland hopes to win Game 3 they will need both players to step up or else this series could very well be over.

Game Play Predictions

Portland Trail Blazers

  • The Blazers ranked 19th in pace of play during the regular season, averaging 98.8 possessions per game.
  • Despite the Pelicans ranking first in the NBA in pace of play at 102.7 the two teams are averaging 98.3 possessions per game, playing at the Blazers pace.
  • The Blazers ranked last in the NBA in assists per game this season but were third in team rebounding.
  • Blazers also shot the ball well from the free throw line, ranking third in the NBA at 80.0-percent
  • Portland’s offense is a two man show with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum dominating the shot attempts.
  • Lillard lead the team with a 31.9% usage rate this season with McCollum having a 25.2-percent usage rate.
  • Center Jusuf Nurkic actually was second on the team with a 27.3-percent usage rate, but he left Game 2 with an injury to his leg and toe limiting him to just 15 minutes.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Game 2 over 36 minutes and will be relied upon to play heavy minutes given his defense and aggressiveness on the glass.
  • Aminu is also a good three-point shooter, making 36.9-percent of his shots from beyond-the-arc during the regular season and 45.5-percent of his three-point attempts in this series.
  • Off the bench expect Maurice Harkless, Zach Collins and Ed Davis to all play close to 20-25 minutes but none of them can really be relied upon for consistent production.

Players To Watch

Damian Lillard Dame entered this series averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals over four games against the Pelicans this season but the playoffs have been an entirely different story as the Pelicans have held him to just 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists on a miserable 31.7-percent from the floor and just 31.3-percent from three-point range.  Lillard is running into “Playoff Rondo” who is using his length and quickness to frustrate Lillard and in Game 2 he turned the ball over seven times.  We know Lillard has the ability to take over games and if he wants to save Portland from certain elimination he will need to show up tonight.
CJ McCollum The Blazers backcourt was supposed to be a strength for team in this series but both Lillard and McCollum have been off their games.  McCollum has been the better of the two as he is averaging 20.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 41-percent from the floor and 38.9-percent from three-point range but it just has not been enough.  The defense of McCollum and Lillard has been the bigger problem as Rajon Rondo is nearly averaging a triple-double and Jrue Holiday is averaging 27 points per game during the series.  Like Lillard, McCollum will need to step up his game in Game 3 if the Blazers are going to have a realistic chance at advancing to Round 2.
Jusuf Nurkic The Blazers big man is dealing with nagging injuries and is unable to keep up with Anthony Davis and the Blazers coaches never play him for much more than 25 minutes as it is even though when he gets 30+ minutes of playing time he is a big time double-double threat.  I do not have high hopes for him in this game.
Al-Farouq Aminu Aminu had a nice double-double in Game 2, scoring 14 points while pulling down 15 rebounds.  He, like the rest of the Blazers, have a real tough matchup as deals with the outside shooting of Nikola Mirotic and the rebounding abilities of Anthony Davis.  Aminu is solid on the offensive end as he can hit the bailout three-point shot when Lillard and McCollum drive to the hoop but this matchup does not play well for him to really have any type of game breaking upside.  What we saw in Game 2 is the best you should hope for.

New Orleans Pelicans

  • The Pelicans ranked first in the NBA in pace of play this season with 102.7 possessions per game.
  • So far this series they have been playing at a slower pace but are still averaging 104 points per game.
  • As a team they ranked 13th in three-point shooting at 36.2-percent while also ranking in the middle of the pack in free-throw percentage and free-throw attempts.
  • Pelicans ranked third in the league in assists per game while the Trail Blazers ranked last in the NBA in assists.
  • Pelicans are lead by Anthony Davis who is averaging 28.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per contest.
  • Davis lead the Pelicans in usage rate this season at 34.1-percent.
  • Jrue Holiday is the clear No.2 scoring option and is averaging 27.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals during the first two games.
  • Holiday ranked second on the team in usage rate this season at 27.5-percent.
  • Rajon Rondo is averaging 11.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 13.0 assists through two games while playing 39 minutes in both contests after averaging 26.2 minutes per game during the regular season.
  • Rondo’s usage rate during the season was 18.0-percent
  • Nikola Mirotic has been a great outside shooting threat for the Pelicans during this season and that has continued during the playoffs as he is averaging 3.5 three-pointers on 8.5 attempts this series.
  • Mirotic’s usage rate since joining the Pelicans sits at 22.7-percent good for third on the team.
  • E’twaun Moore will be playing 30-ish minutes a night and is a solid three-point shooter but aside from that is not very involved in the team’s offense
  • Off the bench the Pelicans use a smaller rotation of Ian Clark, Solomon Hill and Darius Miller.  Clark has the highest upside of the group though the Pelicans “Big 4” of Davis, Rondo, Holiday and Mirotic provide most of the production.

Players To Watch

Anthony Davis Davis has dominated this series so far is averaging 28.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per contest.  This was a similar story during the regular season as he averaged 36 points and 11.5 rebounds in the two games he played the entire contest.  Portland’s answer for Davis is Jusuf Nurkic who despite his frame can not handle Davis’ ability to shoot from outside the paint and therefore he finds himself either in foul trouble or on the bench in favor of Ed Davis who is undersized compared to AD.
Rajon Rondo Every NBA fan knows there are two types of Rajon Rondo’s.  The regular season Rondo and the playoff Rajon Rondo.  Regular season Rondo will show flashes of playoff Rondo in the right matchup but the Trail Blazers are getting the full effect of playoff Rondo through two games as he is averaging 11.0 points, 13.0 assists and 9.0 rebounds per game.  Rondo is a triple-double threat whenever he feels like it and he is taking over his matchup against Damian Lillard in this series.
Jrue Holiday Holiday has asserted himself as the Pelicans No.2 scoring option and in this series he is averaging 27.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists.  The big matchup in this series was going to be the backcourt matchup between these two teams with many figuring Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would have the advantage but that has been far from the case as the Pelicans backcourt has far outplayed the Blazers top two guards this series.
Nikola Mirotic Mirotic is averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 41.2-percent from three-point range in this series. His ability to stretch the floor has opened up the lanes to the hoop for Davis, Holiday and Rondo. He is also a size mismatch for the Blazers forwards in Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. As long as he does not go cold from the outside he should continue to produce at a high level.