What about the Blazers worries you the most?
Jason: Despite the battle of the bigs possibly being the most important matchup, the Blazers have a top-5 MVP candidate in Dame Lillard who dropped 41 on the Pelicans’ heads in their last meeting. New Orleans does have a likely All-Defense candidate in Jrue Holiday, but the backcourt duo of Lillard and CJ McCollum is dangerous no matter who guards them.
Raby: Home court. The Pelicans are a good away team, third best in the West, but the Blazers have a notoriously good home-court. Perhaps the record doesn’t reflect it this year, but the ROSE GARDEN is a tough place to win at if you’re not in black and red. Couple that with the Pelicans’ paltry record at home, by far worst among the Western playoff teams, and the pressure increases to win a game in front of a raucous Portland crowd.
Rory: Nurkic’s defense. He will definitely not stop Anthony Davis, but I am worried he will slow Davis down just enough to give the Blazers the edge. This is where Cousins’ absence will be most felt. Again, the teams were an inverse: just as Nurkic wouldn’t have been able to handle both Davis and Cousins, Holiday will not be able to handle both Lillard and McCollum. If Nurkic can limit Davis to “only” 25-30 points, Lillard and McCollum may be able to bury the Pelicans between the two of them.
Luis: The Blazers having the most dangerous backcourt in Round 1. With Steph being out, Dame is probably the next closest player who has the type of defense-stretching ability that can hamstring a defensive game plan. Next to him is a guard in McCollum, that while he’s had a bit of a down year, can absolutely fill the basket on the offensive end.