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Blazers Host Pelicans with Notable Absences

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Updated: .April 13, 2017

By Charles Jay

The Portland Trail Blazers got off to a rough start but they have come on strong, seizing the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They would like to finish their season over the .500 mark, but they are also considering the health of their players as they move into the regular-season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans, which will start at 10:35 PM ET at the Moda Center in Portland. America’s Bookie customers will have the opportunity, even after the game tips off, to engage in wagers on this game, as they take advantage of either of two different “Live Betting” options in their sportsbook interface.

Portland currently has a record of 41-40 (40-41 ATS), and they are scheduled to play the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. They did not back into this spot; in fact, they have won nine of their last 11 games, covering 10 of them, but but there are some questions as to how they are going to forge ahead. One of them involve center Jusuf Nurkic, who was such a boost for them when he came over in a trade for the Denver Nuggets, but has a leg injury and may not be ready for the playoff series. What made him so important was that he provided a genuine inside scoring element that took a little bit of the pressure off the backcourt of Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum. After the trade with the Nuggets, Nurkic averaged over 15 points and ten rebounds for the Blazers, and without him – and considering that Ed Davis is out for the season with a shoulder injury – this team could wind up being very thin up front.

That didn’t matter on Monday, as Portland defeated the San Antonio Spurs 99-98, despite Lillard, McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Mo Harkless all sitting out. Shabazz Napier had 32 points for the Blazers, and he might be a key person off the bench in the post-season.

In the NBA betting odds that have been posted on this game, Portland is the home favorite:

Portland Trail Blazers -7.5
New Orleans Pelicans +7.5

Over 202 points -110
Under 202 points -110

New Orleans is 33-48 as they close out their season, and although it has been one of disappointment, there is hope for the future, because DeMarcus Cousins, one of the NBA’s dominant big men, has come over from Sacramento in a trade, and he potentially forms one of the league’s most fearsome frontcourt duos with Anthony Davis. We say “potentially” because who knows what the chemistry between these two might ultimately be. But they will both sit out this game; Davis has been out the last three games with a knee injury (and when he went out, he was second in the league in field goal attempts), while Cousins is nursing a bad Achilles tendon and has been out of action for the past four contests. Lillard and McCollum will also get “rest” for the Blazers; there are plausible reasons for coach Terry Stotts to do this, as Lillard has been suffering from a sore foot and McCollum has a right hand strain. Clearly they wanted to play, as evidenced by some of the quotes they gave to reporters.

Portland came out of the All-Star break shooting lights-out, but they have been below 42% over the last four games. The good news for Portland is that they have committed only 36 turnovers in their last five, so maybe the chance they’ll beat themselves in this game is minimized somewhat. The Pelicans are going to take a look at some of those young players, although that is always something the bad teams say toward the end of the year. Cheick Diallo, who played just one year at Kansas, and not a complete one at that, before declaring for the NBA Draft, had a nice outing on Tuesday night against the Lakers, scoring 19 points with 11 rebounds, even though New Orleans lost its fifth straight game (108-96). The last time these teams met, the Pelicans held Portland to just 30% shooting in a 100-77 victory that took place at the Smoothie King Center. The Blazers don’t exactly look like they are all suited up for payback, but their second unit is better than New Orleans’ second unit; they have won eight in a row at home, and some of the role players Stotts has been depending on all season long will be in action. So let’s move, albeit gently, with the Blazers minus the points, as the Charles Jay/America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Wednesday.

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