Heading into their opening-round playoff series, the matchup between the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans was expected to be extremely competitive.
But, it’s been anything but that.
The Pelicans shockingly took the first two games in the series in Portland before enjoying a blowout victory in Game 3 in front of their home crowd.
With Game 4 on the horizon, the Blazers have their backs against the wall and cannot lose.
Although Portland won just one more game than New Orleans in the regular season, it’s been shocking to watch both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum struggle to dominate the Pelicans defense. After all, New Orleans struggled on that end of the court for much of the regular season.
But, the Pelicans have made some adjustments and have gotten hot at the right time. Lillard believes that grit and tenacity are the factors that have gone New Orleans’ way in the first three games of the series. Therefore, he predicted that things will be different in Game 4, even if there are some on-court scuffles.
"They were up into us a lot, a lot more aggressive than we were. And we didn't dish it back out," Lillard said, per Mike Tripplett of ESPN. "I think in the playoffs and in a situation like this, when a team is coming for you like that, you've gotta maybe go out of your way to do it back -- even if that means some foul trouble or some altercations happen out there or whatever.”
Last game, the Pelicans were clearly the more physical bunch. But, one play in particular had everyone talking after the game. After Anthony Davis dunked over Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic on a putback, Jrue Holiday pointed right at Nurkic, clearly taunting him. Nothing happened and the game resumed without an issue (most likely because Nurkic didn't appear to see it). But, after the game, it’s fair to assume that he and his teammates were able to see the replay.
"When a team comes for you the way they did in that last game, maybe we need to just make it a point of emphasis to go back at ‘em,” Lillard commented on Friday.
Despite the three-game deficit, Lillard still believes that his team still has a shot.
"But as much as they've played well and we haven't, three games to zero, that doesn't mean that it's over with. That don't mean that we walk around here defeated. We just gotta get one. The series can change after one game, especially going back home," he said.
Although there are no guarantees about who will win Game 4 between these teams, expect a physical, tough contest.
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