Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Time: Saturday, April 21st, 2018 5:00 PM EDT
Where: Smoothie King Center New Orleans, LA
by Bill D, Predictem
Money Line: Pelicans -280, Blazers +245
Point Spread: New Orleans Pelicans -6
Total Line: 216
Sometimes the stakes are high in pickup ball. Sure, pride is always on the line for a baller, but in this game, there’s a sizable wager. I’m up 8 to 4, and it’s about 90 degrees on the blacktop. I’m on D.. I shuffle hard right. I dont bite at the shot fake and then BOOM… I send that weak layup back to earth so hard you can hear the people watching breathe in as their eyebrows relocate north. It was carnage… Probably a misdemeanor in four states. There are bodies everywhere along with a few tears.
A rejection like this one is all it takes to break the spirit of two 11 & 12-year-old girls. I went on to beat my daughters 10 to 4. No Sonic Blasts would be enjoyed on that day (there is like 100 grams of sugar and 800 calories in a small! What kind of dad would I be?). At 5’10 I’m taller by almost a foot. I change a lot of shots out there. That’s as close as I’ll get to know what it’s like to be Anthony Davis. The guy is a man among children. He has BROKEN the Portland Trail Blazers.
This was supposed to be the Blazers year to make some noise. The narrative all season was that Dame and McCollum had figured out how to beat teams without LaMarcus Aldridge or any other presence in the paint. (By the way, LaMarcus and Lillard - two divorced stars that probably wouldnt be exiting round 1 if still together.) Now in a matchup with Davis Pelicans, Portland is back to looking for answers on how to fix their guard-heavy offense. Anthony Davis averaged two blocks in the regular season. He doubled that in game 1. It hasnt necessarily been a block party since but it has been enough to stop Damian Lillard from what he has been doing all year which is working the pick and roll. Lillard leads the NBA in pick n roll points. This is a big part of the Blazers offense, and it has been all but eliminated by the New Orleans bigs focusing on the Portland guards. Lillard has settled for bad shots in isolation and taking on all 5 Pelicans by himself. There is no cure or replacement for this for game 4. The Pelicans have the blueprint.
When you think of which point guard you would build a team around Rondo hasnt come up since maybe 2009. We all know the knock on Rajon. He enjoys conflict; he won’t make the hockey assist, he repeats what is said in the locker room and will expose his coach if he feels like he can unload some of the blame. Every GM in the league is afraid to ink him for more than a short-term contract to plug a hole. If that team isnt making a run toward the postseason, Rondo doesnt play nearly as much because why invest in the temp guy when Buddy Hield on a rookie contract can get reps? So, Rondo ends up on average to inferior teams and doesn’t get all-star minutes. But when his team is officially out of the lottery race and into the first round, teams can RELEASE THE RONDO!
Last year Rondo was a rebound away from averaging a triple-double for the Bulls in round 1. He had the Celtics looking up from the bottom of a 2-0 hole. Then Danny Ainge broke the thumb off his Rondo voodoo doll and just like that the Bulls stopgap experiment was over. Through three games versus Pelicans Rondo is averaging 13 points, 12 dimes and eight boards and shooting 50% from the field. No, you wouldn’t take Rondo over Lillard or McCollum in an expansion draft, but for right now, for game 4, when its Playoff Rondo, he and Jrue Holiday are the better backcourt. Im listening if you disagree.
In game 1 Lillard and McCollum had their worst game as a backcourt. Portland shot 38% overall and 31% from three. BUT, as bad as Portland played, nearly pulling it out with some three-point shooting at the end, they only lost by 2. In retrospect, this feel-out game was their only chance at making this a series. In Game 2 the Pelicans beat them by 9, a lead established in the third quarter. In Game 3 the Pelicans beat them by 17, a lead formed in the first half. Portland put out the same amount points, 102, in game 2 and 3 but that point total is looking more and more inadequate. The margin of victory has grown from 2, 9 to 17 and building earlier in games. the Pelicans beat the spread by 8, 15 and 13. This trend represents the Pelicans figuring out the Blazers after game 1 and as mentioned, the hearts being ripped out of the Blazers.
Game 4s in 3-0 series have the potential to be let down games. The team in control may feel little urgency and the team in the hole feels like the nothing-to-lose underdog and plays free. This can lead to that oh so common game 5 closeout. I dont see that playing out here. Anthony Davis wants to show that since he won his first playoff game, he is next level. Jrue Holiday is getting a lot of credit for shutting down poor-mans-Steph. That’s a nod he doesnt get if Lillard explodes for 40 on his way out. Rondo is likely in his second to last playoff series as a Pelican and is playing for a contract. Every stat and win puts money in his pocket for next years one year deal.
Most sportsbooks opened the spread at Pelicans -6 and at the time of this article we sit at 6.5. I like the Pels up to -7.5. Look for the fire to spread in Portland and for the Pelicans to build on their momentum and start doing so even earlier in game 4. The New Orleans Pelicans are primed to take another double-digit win into round 2. Pick Pelicans -6.5