The New Orleans Pelicans return home to take on the Portland Trail Blazers at the Smoothie King Center on Friday night.
The Pelicans (20-20) will be looking to bounce back from another regrettable performance after Wednesday’s 105-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, which was their seventh against a sub-.500 team this year.
After starting 1-3, the Pelicans’ record has been at .500 13 diffeent times this season.
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is was listed as questionable on Thursday’s injury report with a sprained right ankle, but coach Alvin Gentry said on Wednesday that he expects Davis to play.
New Orleans has split its two matchups against Portland (22-19) this season, but Davis missed just about all of the two games. He left five minutes into Oct. 24’s 103-93 loss due to a knee injury, and an adductor strain sidelined him for the Pelicans’ 123-116 win on Dec. 2.
Center DeMarcus Cousins has averaged 38.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in his two games against Portland this year.
Portland sits 1.5 games ahead of New Orleans in the Western Conference standings and they got a big boost with the return of Damian Lillard for Wednesay’s game against the Houston Rockets after he sat out the previous two with a calf injury.
Lillard had 29 points and eight assists in the 121-112 loss to the Rockets. He’s scored at least 25 points in six of his last seven games against New Orleans.
Here are some of the keys heading into Friday’s tilt:
1. Containing Portland offense
Portland has scored at least 110 points in the last six games and their offense has shown major improvement after a slow start to the season.
Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Evan Turner had a combined 71 points in Wednesday’s loss to Houston and Portland’s trio of guards will be tough to defend for New Orleans’ perimeter players.
Lillard has scored at least 25 points in six of his last seven games against the Pelicans.
2. Third-quarter blues
The Pelicans have struggled coming out with energy after halftime and it was one of the main reasons behind Wednesday’s loss to Memphis.
New Orleans had a season-low nine points in the third quarter against the Grizzlies as the squad’s patented ball movement vanished. The Pelicans went 4-of-17 from the field and 1-of-9 from deep while also turning the ball over six times.
Since Dec. 1, they are top-5 in scoring during the first, second and fourth quarter, but they are ranked No. 17 in third-quarter points.
New Orleans went from leading by one at halftime to trailing by seven going into the final frame on Wednesday.
The Pelicans have dealt with problems taking care of the ball all season, but being more efficient on offense may be an even bigger priority going into Friday with how well Portland has played on offense as of late.
The Pelicans are ranked No. 27 in turnovers and Cousins leads the league with five giveaways per game. Cousins had two turnovers in the Pelicans’ Dec. 2 win over Portland and he registered eight…