By Griffin Finch
This series between the third and sixth seeds in the Western Conference turned out to be a bit of a let down in terms of its length and competitiveness. But what it did not fail to put on display was the dominance a team like the Pelicans can put forth when they play as a collective unit and trust each other.
Despite being the better team through the regular season, this match up with New Orleans was really unlucky for the Trail Blazers. Portland excels at running the pick and roll and have Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum penetrate and score or create opportunities for others to get involved. The unfortunate part is that defensively, New Orleans has players like Anthony Davis who can practically defend the pick and roll by himself. The also have guards like Jrue Holiday who put the clamp on Lillard holding him to 18 points per game on 35% shooting from the field and 30% from three point range, all significantly lower than his career averages of 23 points per game, 43% from the field and 36% from three. They also have veteran point guard Rajon Rondo who had a resurgence in his career since falling off after departing Boston. Rondo averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds and 13 assists on 48% shooting from the field and 42% from distance. Rondo is also a very long and talented defender who does not back down from anybody. Combine him with Holiday and Davis and the Pelicans completely took away what Portland does best.
More so than it being a bad matchup for Portland, Davis showed up and showed out in this series further solidifying his case for being the heir apparent to LeBron James as best player in the world. It was simply an exhibition for him as the Trail Blazers had no answers when he was on the floor. He dropped 33 points, 12 boards and 3 blocks per game on a staggering 57% shooting from the field. He was a complete mismatch for anyone the Blazers threw at him. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Ed Davis are all to slow to guard him and if they tried Al-Farouq Aminu he was just too small to make any difference.
Before the start of the season nobody thought that Portland would be as good as they were. And if you did think they would be respectable you certainly did not think they would be a top three seed in this loaded Western Conference. It could be argued that the Trail Blazers overachieved this season. I think that the result of this series is very compelling evidence for that argument. They looked overwhelmed and unprepared against one of the hottest teams in the league who were the third seed in the West, and on a roll before their All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins went down for the year. I think that next year we can look forward to an improved Portland team and a team in New Orleans who given health may be ready to compete for championships.