Throughout the playoffs, we’ll be doing series previews for each and every matchup. For more in-depth analysis, check out our Eastern and Western Conference Preview Articles, which covered the conferences at-large. Find all of our NBA playoff content here and on Twitter (@GamblingPodcast and @NBAZachB).
Series Prices and Game 1 Line
New Orleans Pelicans +180 vs. Portland Trail Blazers -220.
G1: NOP @ POR (-5.5), O/U 217, +205/-255.
Regular Season H2H (Split)
10/24/17: New Orleans 93, Portland (-4.5) 103. Under 216.5
12/2/17: New Orleans 123, Portland (-7.5) 116. Over 210.5
1/12/18: Portland (+3.5) 113, New Orleans 119. Over 219.
3/27/18: Portland (-1.5) 107, New Orleans 103. Under 221.
Facts and Figures
Portland Trail Blazers (#3)
- 49-33 Overall. 45-32-5 ATS. 35-47 O/U.
- Leading Scorer: Damian Lillard, 26.9 PPG.
- Best Stats: 44.7% Opp. FG (#4), 80% FT (#3) 79.1% DREB Pct. (#5).
- Worst Stats: 19.5 AST/Gm (#30), 8.1 Fastbreak Pts/Gm (#30).
- Notable Injuries: Moe Harkless, Knee – Out for Game 1, could return in series.
New Orleans Pelicans (#6)
- 48-34 Overall. 45-36-1 ATS. 47-34-1 O/U.
- Leading Scorer: Anthony Davis, 28.1 PPG.
- Best Stats: 52.4 Pts in the Paint/Gm (#1), 48.3% FG (#2), 5.9 BLK/Gm (#3).
- Worst Stats: 110.4 Opp. Pts/Gm (#29), 8.9 Opp. OREB/Gm (#29).
- Notable Injuries: DeMarcus Cousins, Achilles – Out for season.
Key Overall Matchup
The battle for the last five minutes.
Much has been made throughout Damian Lillard’s career of his penchant for strong performances in the clutch. Known as “Dame Time,” the young Portland superstar is as known for his clutch shooting as anyone else in the association. While Dame Time should be in full effect throughout the series, the Pelicans will be ready for a fight in the clutch. With just four total points separating the two teams after four regular season matchups, expect close games that come down to the wire late. Luckily, the two teams are no stranger to the moment.
New Orleans was the second-most frequent team in terms of playing too tight finishes, appearing in 50 games that satisfied the “clutch” criteria (<5 points difference w/ <5 minutes in 4Q/OT). Their 30 wins in “clutch” games this year was tops across the board, and their level of play elevates drastically. Their Net Rating of +2.1 throughout the season elevates to a ridiculously good +11.5 in clutch situations. Led by a savvy veteran backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, they’re able to execute their offense and get timely stops. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Anthony Davis to whom to give the ball and say “go get us a bucket.” He will have a fantastic (for New Orleans) matchup in this series with either Jusuf Nurkic or Zach Collins, neither of whom can remotely deal with him on the perimeter.
Portland was not far behind with 45 such appearances, fifth in the entire association. For them, it starts and ends with the ability of both Lillard and CJ McCollum to take and make big shots against defenders in isolation. Portland is last in the league in assists, but this actually works to their advantage late in games. They are so comfortable grinding out possessions in isolation, as they don’t rely on Fastbreak points (last in the league) throughout the rest of the game. The fourth quarter tends to slap some teams in the face, whereas it is exactly the time that Portland becomes most comfortable.
In a series that looks to feature some close games, clutch execution will be vital to determining outcomes that will come down to just a handful of possessions.
Key Individual Matchup
How can Nurkic guard Anthony Davis’ inside-outside offensive game?
The last two times that these two teams have faced one another, Anthony Davis has picked apart Portland’s defense, shredding any defender in his path. He put up a 36 Pt/9 Reb/2 Blk on 69.6% shooting in a 119-113 victory, and then followed that up in their next matchup with a 36 Pt/14 Reb/6 Blk on 62.5% shooting. Nurkic was certainly effective on the other end, too, but Davis’ numbers against Portland have been prolific and super-efficient.
Nurkic, much more of an interior banger, just isn’t equipped to hang with Davis’ inside-outside game. He may still be their best bet at stopping Davis, however, as Portland doesn’t have many other options. Davis is too elite of a big to have a small-ball faux-center on him, as he can overpower smaller players in the same way that he can outskill Nurkic.
Portland may do best to cut their losses and say let Davis get his while focusing on mitigating the contributions of his supporting cast.
Portland is 11-4 ATS after 2-3 days off.
New Orleans is 14-23 SU as a dog and 3-8 SU as a home dog.
The over is 27-13-1 when New Orleans plays at home, yet just 4-13 when Portland is a road favorite.
New Orleans wins if…
Davis is the best player in the series by far; E’twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic, and Jrue Holiday continue to hit shots; Nurkic can’t stay on the floor.
Portland wins if…
Nurkic can hang tough and stay on the floor, doing his best against Davis; Lillard and McCollum are far and away the better backcourts; Davis has a tough game or two.
Blazers in 7.