Another regular season is in the books for the Trail Blazers. About a quarter of the way through said season, the Blazers didn’t look like they’d even make it to the playoffs, let alone finish on top of the Northwest Division, and in the third seed with home court advantage. If you would’ve asked the Blazer team that perpetrated the 13 game win streak about three quarters of the way through the season how far they would go in the postseason, they probably would’ve said, “See you at the top.” From start to finish, this season’s heroic peaks and dismal valleys have sure made for a wild and wonky ride.
That being said, the Blazers really have a fighting chance in this season’s playoff run. That is, if that tough, streaking team shows up to the playoffs and not the slouching one. Plus, like Damian Lillard said, finishing in the third seed really did do them a huge favor. In years past when the Blazers finished on the lower rungs of the Western Conference, they faced teams like the Golden State Warriors in the first round. This season, they’re facing the New Orleans Pelicans. The Blazers went two for two with the Pelicans in the regular season, so they’re nice and evenly matched. The Pelicans definitely have an arsenal in Anthony Davis’ 28.1 points per game average, and 11.1 rebounds per game. The Blazers are really gonna have to get in front of him. However, Davis did shave his iconic monobrow in two recently. By dismantling his trademark, maybe Davis will lose some of his magic…
Tragically, Davis would end up putting up a massive double-double, 35 points and 14 rebounds. Along With Rajon Rondo’s 17 assists, and Jrue Holiday’s 21 points, the Pelicans walked with game one, 97-95. The Blazers just can’t make it easy on themselves EVER, can they?!
The crowd at the Moda Center was certainly ready last night. When the pregame countdown clock had just over 10 seconds left, they started roaring for no reason, and sustained their cheering until local belter Storm Large started to sing the national anthem. After Large’s rendition, during the Pelicans’ team introductions, a “Let’s Go Blazers!” chant started. You couldn’t even hear the names of the Pelicans’ starting five. The energy was palpable, and the Blazers tend to feed off a raucous crowd.
And feast they did. The Blazers were firing on all cylinders to start the game. There was no playoff nerves to be seen. They confidently attacked the hoop, banged the boards, and really put the screws in the Pelicans on the defensive side. The only ones that were able to break through on the Blazers were Davis and Holiday. They scored 19 of the Pelican’s 21 points in the first quarter. The Blazers started out hot on the offensive side, but finished the quarter with a 30% field goal percentage, and 18 points. It looked like it was going to be a low scoring, defensive bruiser of a game.
Shabazz Napier took over to open the second. He furiously buzzed around the Pelicans like an angry little bee on the defensive side, and ravenously slashed to the hoop on the offensive side. He was wearing his playoff tinted glasses, for sure.
Despite Napier’s efforts, the Blazers’ shooting percentage stayed in the low thirties. They were afforded a lot of good opportunities to score, but they were shooting blanks. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum finished the half shooting a bleak one of 15 from the field. Consequently, the Pelicans made a run at the end the half. They took a nine point lead into the locker room.
There was more of the same from the home team to start the half. The Blazers couldn’t get a handle on anything, and the Pelicans looked like greased lightning. They pushed their lead up to 13 at the nine minute mark of the third. By the five minute mark, it was 17. Things were looking grim. Dame and CJ were still asleep at the wheel. The only Blazer in double figures was Evan Turner with 11. The Blazers made a small run to end the third. Dame made a big three and brought his total up to 11, but the Pelicans still took 12 point lead into the final quarter. Something needed to change.
The momentum was still escaping the Blazers to start the final 12 minutes. They just couldn’t get in front of the Pelicans. They had a small, solid run around the 9 minute mark and cut the Pelicans’ lead to seven. This got the crowd back into it, big time. Everyone was on their feet. Unfortunately, the Pelicans weren’t having any of it. Any time the Blazers took a few steps forward, the Pelicans would take back whatever the Blazets put up.
Then, just after the four minute mark, the Blazers became frantic. It was like they suddenly realized they were about to squander their home court advantage right out of the gate. At the one minute mark CJ hit a big three. The Pelicans lead went down to one.
But, after a few ill-conceived offensive attempts, the Blazers failed to get on top of the Pelicans. The Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry came out at the postgame press conference and said, “Like they always say, a series doesn’t begin until a team wins one on the road…” Well, looks like the first round has begun for the Pelicans…