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Our guys are fine

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09/10/2018 a las 03:38:20
Portland’s Damian Lillard says he likes the first-round matchup against the Pelicans [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/matt-breida-jersey-cheap]Matt Breida Jersey[/url] , but in almost the same breath he lists the reasons why New Orleans is dangerous.

After splitting their four regular-season meetings, the third-seeded Blazers and sixth-seeded Pelicans open the playoffs Saturday night at the Moda Center.

”They stole one from us here, and we felt like that was a game that we should have had. We had a bad third quarter,” Lillard said. ”But they have Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Rondo, E’Twaun Moore, they’ve got a lot of guys that make them a dangerous team.”

The Blazers won the season’s first meeting with New Orleans, 103-93, back in October. But two months later the Pelicans beat the Blazers 123-116 in Portland without Davis. DeMarcus Cousins had 38 points and New Orleans extended its lead to as many as 18 points in the third quarter.

The Pelicans lost Cousins for the season because of an Achilles injury in January, and many thought the team’s playoff hopes were over. Instead, New Orleans rallied, going 21-13 the rest of the way and ending the season on a five-game winning streak.

”We were just starting to find our groove before he went out and when he got hurt it kind of pushed us back,” Davis said. ”We were trying to figure out how we wanted to play [url=http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/josh-norman-jersey]Josh Norman Jersey[/url] , and then we figured it out and were able to push through it.”

Davis stepped up in Cousins’ absence, averaging 30.4 points and 11.8 rebounds.

”When Cousins went down, everybody kind of wrote them off and they’ve done a great job of really competing since then,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ”Anthony Davis has been an outstanding player. It’s been a tough matchup for us, games are close.”

Lillard, who goes into the game averaging 26.9 points, had 41 points in the final meeting of the season with the Pelicans, a 107-103 Blazers win in New Orleans.

”Dame had a hell of a game, but it’s playoffs and you can put everything behind what happened before,” Stotts said. ”The playoffs is a different animal.”

Other things to watch as the Blazers and Pelicans begin their playoff series:

GUESSING THE BEARD ISN’T COMING BACK: The Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic in a trade after Cousins went out. He initially joined the squad as a sixth man and was inconsistent. But late this season, he shaved his beard, joined the starting lineup and he’s been thriving ever since, scoring no fewer than 21 points in a game during the Pelicans’ season-ending five-game winning streak.

LUCKY THIRTEEN: The Blazers went on a 13-game winning streak, starting with a victory over Golden State just before the All-Star break that boosted their playoff position. And despite their late four-game losing streak [url=http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/mark-sanchez-jersey]http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/mark-sanchez-jersey[/url ] , the Blazers still finished 49-33 and clinched the Northwest Division title. ”We would have liked to have a 50-win season but you can’t complain about a division championship or 49 wins,” Lillard said.

ROAD COURT ADVANTAGE: The Pelicans were just as good on the road (24-17) as they were at home (24-17). ”On the road we’ve been really, really good at just locking in and giving ourselves an opportunity to come up with wins … That’s what you have to do in order to be a playoff team,” coach Alvin Gentry said.

HIGH MILEAGE: CJ McCollum topped the NBA for the most miles on the court this season with 218. It was the third straight season he’s led the league in the stat. Jrue Holiday is No. 2 overall with 211.40 miles.

GOING FORWARD: Game 2 is set for Tuesday before swinging to New Orleans for games on Thursday and the following Saturday. The ”if necessary” games go like this: Tuesday, April 24, in Portland; Thursday, April 26, in New Orleans; and Saturday, April 28, back in Portland.



More NBA basketball: The sight of Evgeny Kuznetsov clutching his left arm and leaving the ice after a hit from Brayden McNabb isn’t as big a threat to the Washington Capitals‘ title hopes as it might seem.

Not after the Capitals withstood three games without Nicklas Backstrom. Not after they missed Kuznetsov for most of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and still beat the Vegas Golden Knights to tie the series.

They’d love to have their leading scorer in the lineup Saturday night in Washington, but with superstar captain Alex Ovechkin and several top players producing and filling the void, the Capitals are built to handle life without Kuznetsov if it comes to that.

”We’ve had some guys been out here and there these playoffs,” Backstrom said. ”It’s hard to replace Kuznetsov the way he’s been playing, but if that’s the case it is what it is and we just have to have other guys step up.”

Coach Barry Trotz provided no update on Kuznetsov on Thursday other than to say the Russian center is day to day. The team practices again Friday.

It didn’t look very good for Kuznetsov when he went down the tunnel in the first period Wednesday night and didn’t return. But Ovechkin scored his first career Stanley Cup Final goal on the power play [url=http://www.officiallightningprostore.com/authentic-adidas-ryan-callahan-jersey]Ryan Callahan Jersey[/url] , and Lars Eller, bumped up the lineup to fill in for Kuznetsov, had a goal and two assists.

No one player can make up for the potential loss of Kuznetsov, who has 11 goals and 14 assists in 21 playoff games, though Washington’s depth down the middle looks solid with Backstrom, Eller, Jay Beagle and, if need be, Chandler Stephenson. Eller played a key role in two big victories against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final without Backstrom, and will once again be one of the most important players on the ice if Kuznetsov isn’t healthy.

”Nick has gone out or Kuzy has been out, Lars has elevated his game and comes up in a more prominent role,” Trotz said. ”I think he embraces the challenge. He takes the moments very seriously that he has to step up and try to find a way to produce, and he has. He’s a veteran player who has good hockey sense, and he’s strong on the puck [url=http://www.steelersfootballauthentics.com/le_veon-bell-jersey-authentic]Womens Le'Veon Bell Jersey[/url] , and I think his game translates well in the playoffs.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Capitals can lean on Ovechkin in times of need, and they have received strong performances from top-six wingers Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana and defenseman John Carlson.

It’s the kind of production Vegas is looking for from its top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Going on the road means coach Gerard Gallant can’t pick matchups, so he’s counting on his best players to play like it.

”I don’t care who they play against,” Gallant said. ”We’re going to play well and work hard and compete hard. (Wednesday) night they didn’t have the offensive outburst they usually have. You’re not going to be at your best every night. I expect them to be really good for us like they have all season long.”

Gallant tipped his hat to the Capitals, saying they deserved to win Game 2 based on how they performed after losing Kuznetsov. It would be more difficult to sustain that effort and adrenaline for an entire game without him, though it’s a test they passed without Backstrom earlier in the playoffs.

”It’ll be a big loss, but as you saw in the Pittsburgh series when Nick went down, sometimes that kind of energizes some other guys to get in there and be able to make some plays,” Oshie said. ”So we’ll roll with the punches.”

Rolling with the punches has become somewhat of the Capitals’ identity this season and into the playoffs. They got some more in the form of a ground stop at the airport after they landed on Thursday as lightning kept them from getting off the plane.

Trotz considers it just another roadblock for his team to get over.

”Our guys are fine,” he said. ”It’s another layer of adversity that we have to go through all the time.”



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