Battle at the Basket

The fourth quarter of Game 1 between New Orleans and Portland was all about defending the rim out of pick-and-roll. It was a battle New Orleans won in this first game — and it's one that will likely define the series.

It probably wouldn¡¯t shock you to learn that the Pelicans have been one of the league¡¯s best teams finishing around the rim. They have surrounded Anthony Davis and his elastic arms with shooting, putting opponents in a bind: help on Davis¡¯ rolls and open up the three point line, or stay home on shooters and risk Davis getting the ball in tight, where he¡¯s all but unstoppable. And sure enough, this season the Pelicans have taken the 8th most shots inside of four feet and converted 65% of those attempts, the sixth highest mark in the league.

But it might surprise you that New Orleans¡¯ first-round opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers, are the league¡¯s stiffest challenge to Davis¡¯ rim-rocking ways: the Blazers led the league in FG% defense at the rim, allowing opponents to convert just 55% of their attempts there. Not only was the Blazers¡¯ rim defense the best this season — it¡¯s one of the best marks we¡¯ve seen in recent history.

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