The Portland Trail Blazers look to stay red-hot against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Big Easy on Wednesday night. The Trail Blazers are looking for their sixth straight win and eighth win in their last nine games. What makes this so impressive is the fact that they’ve done it without CJ McCollum. No McCollum and no Jusuf Nurkic, but no problem for the Blazers.
This isn’t a reflection of how McCollum and Nurkic aren’t important in Portland. However, it is a reflection of how good Damien Lillard is. Lillard, like Kyle Lowry, have been two of the most underrated guards in the NBA in the past few years. I’m not going to ignore Gary Trent Jr. who has really stepped up in the absence of McCollum, though.
Trent Jr. has quietly been going about his business and filling the void nicely. It would be really hard to stick the 22-year-old on the bench once McCollum returns. They are going to have to do something. The option is likely on the table to trade McCollum for some assets, but the depth they are going to have with McCollum and Trent Jr. looks way too attractive to ignore.
The Trail Blazers have been just beating up on the OKC Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers of the world either. Two of their last four wins were against the 76ers and Mavericks. The win over the Mavericks was awfully impressive, as they went to Texas and won straight up as underdogs against a talented Mavericks team. As a result of this recent run, the Trail Blazers go into this contest with a record of 17-10.
New Orleans recently snapped out of a three-game losing streak with a 144-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. It was a heck of an offensive display, as Zion Williamson went off for 31 points, and Josh Hart came off the bench to score 27 points and 9 rebounds. Despite coming off the bench, Hart led the team on the floor with the most minutes with 32.
He was the reason why a win turned into a blowout. The Pels enter tonight with a record of 12-15. They are a young team that is open to improvement in the next year or two. Certainly, they are going to have to develop into a competitive playoff team under Williamson or this era is going to be a missed opportunity. Head below for our free Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans pick on February 17, 2021.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans NBA Betting Odds:
Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans Prediction:
The Pelicans have to forget about their big win over the Grizzlies and direct their attention to the Trail Blazers tonight. The second the Pelicans sit back and get too comfortable, the Trail Blazers are going to run right past the Pelicans’ defense. I had high hopes for the Pelicans’ defense this season. Early on, they were really playing quality defense.
Stan Van Gundy had the team buying into his defensive philosophy. However, all of that has seemingly gone out the window, and they’ve reverted back to being one of the worst defenses in the NBA. Only the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves gave up more points than the Pelicans last year. The Pelicans conceded 117.1 points per game in the 2019-20 campaign. They’ve been better, though most of the good defense we’ve seen from them was earlier on this season.
The Pelicans have been trending in the direction they were going last season recently. In their last five outings, they’ve been tagged for 121.8 points per game. They’ve apparently given up on trying to play defense and focusing all of their resources on the other side of the floor. Through those five games, they scored an average of 126.4 points per game, so were able to make up for the defensive deficiencies. With how the Blazers are scoring the ball right now, they’re going to need more defense, though.
Portland has been on fire from the field, as they’ve shown no ill effects from the absence of McCollum. In their last five outings, the Blazers have racked up 117.8 points per game. On the season, they check in at No. 5 overall with 115.4 points per game. No Nurkic there as a rim protector does hurt, though. The Blazers are 25th in the league with 114.8 points against per game. The Pelicans, who are scoring 117 a game at home this season, should be able to be competitive in this game by running and gunning. The total here looks much too low.