The Scouting Report: New Orleans Pelicans
Projected starting line-up: Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, Kendrick Perkins
Injuries: Omer Asik (questionable, back spasms), Luke Babbitt (questionable, hamstring), Norris Cole (out indefinitely, high ankle sprain), Tyreke Evans (out 6-8 weeks, knee surgery), Quincy Pondexter (out indefinitely, knee)
The good news for the Blazers: the Pelicans will only have 10 players available for Wednesday’s game. The bad news: one of those 10 players is Anthony Davis.
Davis scored 18 points and went 4-for-20 from the field against the best defense in the league from last season. Expect Davis to come out firing like he did against Golden State but with a little more success. This isn’t exactly a bold prediction, it’s just playing the averages. He’s not going to throw up two stinkers from the field in a row. He still had 18 points, but the most concerning of all was that he only grabbed six rebounds.
In terms of Davis, it makes sense that the Blazers will throw a lot of different looks at him. Whether it’s Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Al-Farouq Aminu, assistant coach David Vanterpool, Free-Throw guy–there’s going to be a lot of people guarding Davis. There is no real answer for him, so it makes sense that the Blazers try to search for a lot of them.
After holding him out last night, the Pelicans will get Jrue Holiday back in the line-up, albeit in a limited capacity. The Pellies were forced to start Nate Robinson at point guard last night against the Warriors, who they signed towards the end of preseason. They gave extended minutes to recently waived Ish Smith. With Holiday, that rotation will be a little different and a little bit better. But we will still likely see a mix of those two as the Pelicans are capping Holiday’s minutes at 20.
Ryan Anderson is a problem for defenses and will test the Blazers second unit defense in pick and rolls. The Blazers like to switch pick and rolls with shooting big men like Anderson, which means that Portland’s bigs must be up to the challenge of taking on Pelicans ball-handlers. The Pelicans, due to injury, simply don’t have a lot of them but Smith and Robinson are waterbug types who aren’t afraid to look to score in favorable match-ups. Holiday is a bigger threat and Gordon can shoot well from the perimeter.
If Asik doesn’t start, look for Kendrick Perkins in the pivot, which is good news for Portland’s ball handlers and finishers. Asik is a much more imposing rim protector and Perkins looked surprisingly good offensively with a couple of hook shots but he’s a significant downgrade from Asik. Alexis Ajinca got minutes off the bench at the five.
Without Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans lack their best off-the-dribble force. Quincy Pondexter is their best two-way wing. The Blazers have an opportunity to get this team while they’re down. But games like tonight–needing a win in a hostile environment with a lot of injuries–are games that MVP candidacies are made of.
Portland has advantages thanks to poor health, but Davis is all New Orleans needs to take this game away.