PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Trail Blazers are facing a tough game against the New Orleans Pelicans without Damian Lillard.
Lillard is out for about three to four games, including Friday night’s, after a right groin strain.
Here’s what we’re wondering ahead of the showdown at the Moda Center:
Can CJ carry the load?
All-Star guard Damien Lillard had been on a scoring frenzy and has been playing some incredible basketball for the Blazers. With his injury, the Blazers’ second top-scoring option is CJ McCollum, who will have to step up and have a big-time roll in the Blazers’ match-up against the Pelicans. If the Blazers want to have a chance in this game, CJ is going to step up and take control of the offensive load for the Blazers.
Can Trent set the tone?
Gary Trent has been a spark for the Blazers with his much-improved play. He has stepped into the role of a very reliable guard off the bench who can play some hard nose tenacious defense as well as knock down the three-point shot. The Blazers are going to need every ounce of his big plays tonight with Lillard being out.
Who is going to slow down Zion?
Zion dominated the Blazers when they last faced off, dropping a career-high 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Whether it be Nassir Little, Carmelo Anthony or Trevor Ariza, the Blazers need to find someone who is going to give Zion a run for his money with this superior athleticism.
Can the Blazers’ defense slow down the pace?
In the last match between these two teams, the Pelicans scored 35 fast break points compared to the Blazers’ 13. With the Pelicans being a young athletic team, they are going to look to push the pace and force the Blazers to get back on defense quickly. The question is, will the Blazers be able to get back quick enough on defense and force the Pelicans to run through their offense instead of chalking up easy fastbreak points?
Can the Blazers bench outplay the pelicans?
With Lillard being out, that means the bench is going to have to help the starters out and take some of the scoring load off them. Last time these two teams faced off, the Pelicans bench outscored the Blazers bench by 24 points. Who will be able to come off the bench and be a scoring threat for the Blazers?
Do the Blazers shooters compete in this one?
We know CJ is going to have to carry the load offensively, but as a team can the Blazers shoot better than they did in the last matchup? The Pelicans shot the ball 42 percent from beyond the arc compared to the Blazers 24 percent. With Lillard out, will the Blazers have to come with a different approach with Lillard out? Or, can someone bring a spark from beyond the arc and have a big shooting performance against the Pelicans?