The Portland Trail Blazers are struggling, but a matchup against the 26-38 New Orleans Pelicans offers them their most favorable matchup of a brutal five-game road trip.
For the first time all year, the Portland Trail Blazers have lost four games in a row. That’s a huge testament to how dominant they were early in the year, but it’s also a huge red flag with the playoffs right around the corner.
At this point, the Blazers have gone from fighting for a top-three seed to needing every win to retain any sort of home-court advantage.
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To make matters worse, LaMarcus Aldridge is out for two games and Mo Williams is out for two weeks, leaving doubt in some people’s minds as to whether or not this team will even make the postseason.
Simply put: The chances of this group falling out of the top eight are slim. However, there’s a very real chance that it could get jumped in the standings by the Golden State Warriors, and even the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies if it’s not careful.
It’s do-or-die time for Rip City, meaning the Blazers must win every winnable game moving forward, including this one Friday night against the Pelicans.
If the New Orleans Pelicans are smart, they’ll swarm Damian Lillard from start to finish.
When LaMarcus Aldridge missed time following the All-Star Break, the point guard picked up his game to a season-high level and completely took over the offense. With Aldridge out again, he’ll look to do the same, making him priority No. 1 for the New Orleans defense.
On offense, look for Anthony Davis to work his magic. Although the big man is clearly known for his defense at this point in his career—he’s averaging a league-best 2.93 blocks per night—he’s becoming a sound offensive player as well.
He’s averaging 20.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting—not to mention 10.2 rebounds with a PER of 26.62—and he should be able to take full advantage of whomever Portland chooses to fill Aldridge’s spot, whether that be Thomas Robinson or Dorell Wright.
The good news for New Orleans is that it has Portland at its lowest point of the season. The bad news is that the Blazers are now desperate, and their first players-only meeting of the year may have been what they needed to turn things around.
Don’t expect this to be an easy win for Portland, but don’t be shocked if the road team comes away with a much-needed victory.
Prediction: Portland 99 – New Orleans 97