Playoffs 2018 West First Round: Blazers (3) vs. Pelicans (6)
Numbers preview: Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (6)
The Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans were separated by just one game in the standings in the tight Western Conference. They’re both led by All-Stars and they have both, in the minds of many, overachieved.
Defensive improvement was the story for both of these teams. The Blazers were one of the most improved defensive teams in the league, going from the bottom 10 (last season) to the top 10 on that end of the floor. The Pelicans improved offensively this season, but they went from a bottom 10 defense at the time DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season to a top 10 defense after the Cousins injury.
The Blazers will have home-court advantage in the first round for just the second time in the last 18 years. But the Pelicans have been one of the league’s best teams on the road.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 3-6 series in the West, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Portland Trail Blazers (49-33)
Pace: 98.8 (19)
OffRtg: 106.1 (16)
DefRtg: 104.2 (8)
NetRtg: +1.9 (11)
Blazers team notes:
- Only 10.5 percent of their possessions, the lowest rate in the league, were in transition, according to Synergy tracking.
- Led the league with 26.8 pull-up jumpers per game. C.J. McCollum (9.3) and Damian Lillard (8.9) ranked fourth and sixth amongst individuals, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Opponents shot just 55 percent in the restricted area, the lowest mark by a wide margin.
- Had the league’s best winning percentage (they were 33-1) after leading by at least 15 points.
- Led the league with 11.5 screen assists per game.
Blazers individual notes:
- Ed Davis led the league with 575 rebounds off the bench (115 more than any other player).
- Damian Lillard ranked third in both free throw percentage and total free throws made. He became just the eighth (different) player in NBA history to shoot 90 percent or better on at least seven free throw attempts per game.
- Lillard led the league with 12.4 points per game as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
- C.J. McCollum led the league in total distance traveled (218 miles). A Portland player has led the league for all five seasons for which we have full-season tracking data, and it has been McCollum for each of the last three.
- Lillard (9-for-17) and McCollum (7-for-20) were two of four players with at least seven field goals to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.
- Shabazz Napier had an effective field goal percentage of 42 percent after the All-Star break, down from 53 percent before the break. That was the fourth biggest drop among players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 150 after it.
- Jusuf Nurkic had an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent after the All-Star break, up from 48 percent before the break. That was the fourth biggest jump among players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 150 after it.
- Evan Turner took 62 percent of his shots from between the restricted area and 3-point range, the highest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
Pace: 102.7 (1)
OffRtg: 107.7 (9)
DefRtg: 105.6 (12)
NetRtg: +2.1 (10)
Pelicans team notes:
- Ranked sixth in pace (101.5 possessions per 48 minutes) at the time of DeMarcus Cousins’ Achilles injury (Jan. 26) and led the league (104.5) thereafter.
- Ranked 21st defensively (106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) prior to the Cousins injury and fifth (103.7) thereafter.
- One of two teams (the Warriors were the other) that had the same record at home (24-17) as they did on the road. Ranked fifth in road defense and fourth in point differential per 100 possessions (plus-2.0) on the road.
- Led the league with nine wins after trailing by 15 or more points and had seven wins (three more than any other team) in overtime.
- Were 30-20 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. That was tied for the second most “clutch” games in the league and the their 0.600 winning percentage in those games was up from 0.386 (17-27) last season. No team saw a bigger jump in clutch winning percentage.
- Lineup of Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis averaged 105.2 possessions per 48 minutes, the second fastest pace among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.
- Added Mirotic and Emeka Okafor around the same time (early February). From that point on, they outscored their opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions in 576 minutes with Davis on the floor with Mirotic, and by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 218 minutes with Davis on the floor with Okafor.
Pelicans individual notes:
- Anthony Davis led the league in blocks (2.6 per game) and led the league in scoring (30.2 points per game) after the Cousins injury.
- Davis was the only player (minimum 1,000 minutes) who accounted for more than half of his team’s free throw attempts while he was on the floor.
- The Pelicans outscored their opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions with Jrue Holiday on the floor, and were outscored by 7.9 with Holiday off the floor. That (13.6 points per 100 possessions) was the third biggest on-off NetRtg differential among 266 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.
- Holiday ranked second in the league in total distance traveled (211 miles).
- Davis (51.6 percent) Holiday (50.5 percent) were two of five players who shot better than 50 percent on at least 50 shots with the score within five points in the last five minutes.
- Nikola Mirotic had an effective field goal percentage of 51.3 percent (below the league average) in 30 games with New Orleans after registering a mark of 58.8 percent (above the league average) in 25 games with Chicago.
- E’Twaun Moore ranked fourth in the league with 63 corner 3-pointers. Darius Miller (54 percent) and Moore (50 percent) were two of eight players who shot 50 percent or better on at least 50 corner 3-point attempts.
- Of Miller’s 487 field goal attempts, 15 (three percent) came from the restricted area.
- Rajon Rondo recorded assists on 45 percent of his possessions, the highest rate in the league.
Regular season matchup
Season series: Tied 2-2 (1-1 in Portland)
Oct. 24 @ Portland – Blazers 103, Pelicans 93
Dec. 2 @ Portland – Pelicans 123, Blazers 116
Jan. 12 @ New Orleans – Pelicans 119, Blazers 113
Mar. 27 @ New Orleans – Blazers 107, Pelicans 103
Pace: 103.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Portland OffRtg: 106.1 (14th vs. New Orleans)
New Orleans OffRtg: 106.0 (13th vs. Portland)
- DeMarcus Cousins played in the first three meetings, and the Pelicans only had Nikola Mirotic and Solomon Hill for the last one. Anthony Davis did not play in the Dec. 2 game. The Pelicans won both of the games that Rajon Rondo played (though he was a minus-23 in the Jan. 12 meeting) and lost both of the games that he didn’t play.
- Maurice Harkless missed the final meeting for Portland.
- All four games were within five points in the last five minutes. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard shot a combined 1-for-9 on clutch shots. Davis was 5-for-6 in the clutch.
- Jrue Holiday was both the most common defender on Lillard and the most common defender on McCollum. They both shot better than 50 percent on those possessions.
- Al Farouq-Aminu was Davis’ primary defender. Davis shot 16-for-27 on those possessions.
- Davis (65.3 percent) and E’Twaun Moore (62.9 percent) had the third and fifth highest effective field goal percentage marks against the Blazers this season (minimum 25 FGA).
- Davis and Emeka Okafor were a plus-13 in 15 minutes together in the last meeting. Davis and Cousins were a plus-0 in 34 minutes together against Portland. And in 36 minutes with Davis at center against the Blazers, the Pelicans were outscored by 14 points.
- The Blazers were a plus-18 in 38 minutes with Lillard, McCollum and Shabazz Napier on the floor together against New Orleans.
- The Pelicans won the third quarter in all four games.
- Lillard’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.188 (18/96) was his lowest rate against any Western Conference opponent.
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