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What Happened: Are The Pelicans That Good, Or Are The Blazers Still Not A Contender?

The Pelicans swept the Blazers. Which does this say more about?

When the playoffs started, there were only a couple of series that had “sweep” all over them. Houston and Golden State were the best two teams all year and were expected to cruise through the first round. They did for the most part, but each team dropped a game on the road. However, no one saw a sweep coming in the Portland-New Orleans series, especially not the way it happened.

Don’t get me wrong—Anthony Davis was a man among boys. The future of the NBA proved his worth, averaging 33 points along with close to 12 rebounds and three blocks per game. Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo outperformed Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Holiday and Rondo combined for 39 points, almost 20 assists, and 12 rebounds per game, while each shot 57% from the field. The Pelicans deserve the credit. But the way the series panned out showed more about the problems that still exist in Portland.

Let’s start on the offensive end. The Trail Blazers still don’t have help for Lillard and McCollum. The easy way to stop the Blazers is by trapping them and forcing someone else to make a play.

Throughout the video, no matter the game, the Pelicans constantly trap Lillard or McCollum and force the ball into the hands of Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Jusuf Nurkic, and the list goes on. The Pelicans did it all series, making it difficult for either McCollum or Lillard to get anything going.

Lillard averaged over 18 points per game but only shot 35% from the field and averaged four turnovers per game. McCollum averaged 25 points per game and shot 52% from the field over the course of the series, but he and Aminu (52%) were the only ones who shot the ball consistently over the course of the series.

In addition, on the offensive end, Nurkic is not the answer. Nurkic was brought in last year to give the Trail Blazers the threat in the frontcourt that they thought would free up Lillard and McCollum on the perimeter. Nurkic was not even close this series. The Bosnian big man only averaged close to 12 points and eight rebounds per game, not enough to keep up with the Davis on the other side.

Now to the defensive end. First off, give the Trail Blazers credit during the regular season. They only gave up 103 points per game and had a defensive rating of 106.4, numbers that were fifth and eighth respectively in the league. It was part of the reason that Portland got the 3-seed this year. But when the playoffs hit, they reverted back to their old ways.

Portland had the worst defensive rating in the playoffs at 114.7. Davis and Holiday dominated on the offensive end. Nurkic was no match for Davis, as The Brow took whatever shot he wanted on the court. As talented as they are offensively, Lillard and McCollum’s bad defense showed up once again. McCollum couldn’t slow down Holiday, who averaged almost 28 points and over six assists. Lillard couldn’t even handle Rondo, who shot the ball better than Lillard did while also dishing out 13 assists per game. 

In addition to the worst defensive rating in the playoffs, the Blazers also gave up the most points per game at 114.5 and had the worst defensive field goal percentage at 52.5%. On top of that, the only players who had a positive defensive box plus/minus were McCollum and Aminu. Now, it’s hard to stop Davis—no one will deny that. But Holiday averaging close to 30 points per game and Mirotic averaging 18 per game is more a reflection of the Blazers’ poor defense than of the offensive prowess of Holiday and Mirotic.

The Pelicans deserve credit for coming out and taking it to the Trail Blazers, especially on the road. However, the sweep says a lot about the Trail Blazers’ inability to make the necessary changes to become a serious contender. They need to address the same problems that have plagued them in the past; they need a big who can take some of the scoring load off of Lillard and McCollum’s backs, and they need to get better defensively. 

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

When is the last time the Portland Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference Finals?
Created 4/28/18
  1. 1990
  2. 1992
  3. 2014
  4. 2000

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