Damian Lillard: 'I've Just Got to Be Better'

Pelicans Vs Trail Blazers Playoff Preview Starting Lineups Odds Predictions TV Injuries | NBA 4/19/18

Damian Lillard: 'I've Just Got to Be Better'

The volume was high early with the crowd revved up for the first playoff game in New Orleans since 2015.

The Pelicans developed its whole defensive scheme around crowding Lillard on the pick-and-roll. He iced his leg the rest of the game.

The 6-foot-10 Mirotic, acquired in a midseason trade after DeMarcus Cousins' season-ending Achilles tear, made 12 of 15 shots, scoring on everything from quick-release 3-pointers to cutting dunks and fast-break layups. The Pelicans hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series as they head back home for Game 3. Game 3 is set for Friday in Milwaukee.

Don't be confused. This isn't the first time this franchise has experienced this type of atmosphere. A decade after his breakout title run, he finds himself once again on the outside of his team's Big Three.

However, something was different about April 19, 2018 in our current era led by once-in-a-lifetime talent Anthony Davis.

Removed from the turbulence that marked his previous seasons in New Orleans, Jrue Holiday is in a good place - and it shows.

Fans looked tried and defeated on their way out of the Moda center on Tuesday, but many of them also know that this team has faced tough odds all year long.

As is usually the case with the uniquely gifted - and flawed - guard, Rondo's impact requires a deeper look beyond the box score. Meanwhile, the Trailblazers are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games and 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall. With the Pelicans holding the home advantage and the best player on the court in Anthony Davis while getting plenty of help from everyone else, New Orleans is a hard fade right now.

The Trail Blazers, however, are proving to be the ideal matchup for Rondo's unique skill set.

While other playoff-debuts have gone well - Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum - Nurkic struggles versus New Orleans.

The Blazers should start Pat Connaughton at the small forward. The Pelicans called timeout, but E'Twaun Moore missed a runner that Nurkic rebounded. Rondo has to bring something else to stand out.

For the Pelicans, the massive sum they paid Holiday this past summer is proving worthwhile. "I give a lot of credit to them for executing their game plan". "We trust each other, we're playing the right way on offense and guys are moving the basketball". Lillard has shot 32.7 percent in the three losses.

And numerous open looks have been the result of Rondo's well-honed timing and patience. The Trailblazers' strength all season has been their backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum but they've been completely outplayed by the Pelicans' backcourt duo of Rondo and Holiday. When guarded by Holiday this series - who he's been primarily matched-up with - Lillard is only shooting 11 percent.

In a series with MVP candidates like Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, or even a scorer like C.J. McCollum, Jrue Holiday wasn't the most likely player to have the biggest impact on the first-round series between the Pelicans and Blazers.

Trail Blazers are down but not out in the First-Round playoff series.

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