The Pelicans' push for the playoffs as of late has been impressive, as they will enter tonight on a four-game win streak. In order to pick up a fifth straight win, New Orleans will head to Portland to take on an injury-riddled Trail Blazers team. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’m targeting a first-half spread bet in this one.
Since the All-Star break, the Pelicans are 23rd in offensive efficiency rating and 14th in NET rating, but over their past four games, they are 6th in offensive rating and 2nd in NET rating. This spike in efficiency could be attributed to a few factors, one of which being that they are in the midst of a soft spot in their schedule, as three of their last four wins came against the Hornets, Rockets, and Spurs.
A weak schedule at the season's tail end may have been what New Orleans needed to spark some life into their offense. In their most recent win over a solid Clippers team, the Pelicans scored 131 points on 53% shooting from the field and a 62% three-point percentage. Brandon Ingram and Trey Murphy III finished with 32 points, while Ingram also dished out 13 assists.
The Pelicans' defense has remained strong during the second half of the season, but they are now starting to put complete games together on both ends of the floor. A big positive for New Orleans is their weak stretch of the schedule will continue tonight against a Trail Blazers team with three of their best players in, Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Jusuf Nurkic listed on the injury report.
Portland has already lost eight of their last ten games, including a 17-point loss to the Pelicans on March 12th. With the recent losing slide, reports surfaced yesterday that Portland may sit Lillard for the rest of the season as their hopes for the play-in tournament have diminished by the day. Lillard and Nurkic have missed the last two games, while Simons has missed the last three, which has led to Portland’s NET rating over the past ten games to be ranked 29th in the league.
The injury news has made the line for the game move a bit, but currently, the Pelicans 1H spread can be found at -6.5, which will be my play in this one. The Pelicans are 7-3 ATS in the first half of their last ten games, while Portland is 4-5-1 ATS in the 1H in that same stretch. On the season, New Orleans is the fourth most profitable team in the league when it comes to first-half spread bets.
Over the past ten games, the Pelicans have the fifth-best 1H NET rating in the league at (10.2). Portland has not had anywhere near the same level of first-half production recently, as they rank 24th in NET rating over that same span at (-6.4). This significant differential in first-half output on both ends of the floor was made clear when these two teams last met, as New Orleans went into halftime with a 20-point lead.
In the last two games in which Portland played without Lillard, Simons, and Nurkic, they went into halftime losing while only making an average of 19.5 field goals per game. With the overall lack of momentum and production in the first half, I think fading Portland in this spot could be very profitable, especially with how New Orleans has been playing.
New Orleans Pelicans 1H (-6.5)