Hopefully by now your brackets aren’t busting, however if you had Wake Forest going to the Elite Eight or *gasp* the Final 4, I have a feeling you’ve ripped that sheet of paper up a few times. I know it’s happened in the past but my short term memory made me wonder ‘has a higher seed ever gotten dominated like that?’ Tsk tsk. Well onto what should make you feel better and that’s the Blazers wrapping up their 5-game road trip with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Did you notice how I used the word should?
Tonight’s game carries a lot of importance. The more obvious parts are the fact that wins rule everything around us, cream get the money, dollar dollar bill y’all. (Translation: You have to win to keep up in the Western Conference or you will lose your breath.) Portland comes into tonight’s game sitting in 7th place in the Western Conference and a win will jump as right back to 5th. A loss and we’re slipping into Dallas category. So that’s out of the way. It’s also important for the Blazers to win for this to be a positive road trip. The goal on any extended road swing (I say about 4-5 games) is to “win” it or to come out better than you come in. Portland needs this win to come home with a 3-2 road trip, which isn’t great but definitely is not bad at all. Also lets not forget that the Blazers have made some nice progress on this trip. Cancel out that second half in Atlanta and you have two great performances in Memphis and Indiana and the positive vibes of the Cleveland game. You know…the whole…’taking the team with the best home record in the NBA to overtime without two key pieces, without shooting well and with them only turning the ball over twice in 53 minutes. Those vibes.
Those vibes go right out of the window with a loss to Milwaukee. B-Roy said it best in Quick’s uber-exclusive look behind-the-scenes when asked if the Cleveland game was encouraging:
“Not if we don’t play well against Milwaukee,” Roy said. “I will have to see how we respond. I feel we have put three good games together on this trip. If we can add a fourth, I will consider it good. For the trip.”
To me this has some trap game elements to it. Before you go poo-pooing the Bucks there are some things to consider. First, this is the last of a 5-game road trip for Portland. 5 games in under a week adds up, especially when one is an overtime game when you’re already depleted. Portland has struggled in the last game on road trips all year so it will be interesting to see how they respond. Back to the Bucks. Remember folks this is an important game to Milwaukee too. They may be depleted due to injuries and may be 31-39…but they are 1 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Combine that with the fact that they are 20-15 at home and Scott Skiles teams ALWAYS play hard (forthefirstcoupleyears) and you can see how this isn’t going to be an easy 48 minutes. On the other side of things they have lost 8 of their last 11, including 3 of their last 4 at home and three of their key rotation players are Malik Allen, Francisco Elson and Charlie Bell.
Last time we faced Milwaukee it was the threat of Redd and Jefferson. Well Redd is out for the year so their two scorers are Jefferson and Villanueva. *insert Twitter joke*. Charlie V absolutely destroys the Blazers and RJ will get enough shots to probably get his stats. But after that…oh boy. Ramon Sessions usually puts a bit of fear in my heart but he’s in a slump of slumps over the past three games. He’s averaging 5 points a game and shooting 6-for-24. Yikes indeed. I guess I should worry abut Charlie Bell…nope. Can’t finish that sentence without laughing. You get the gist here.
Keys to success:
- Energy and effort. This is a game where if we come out with dead legs it just is not going to work. The energy is going to have to be there early. I wouldn’t mind if this trend of great starts keeps up. With LaMarcus back this should help.
- No third option. If it’s just the Jefferson/Villanueva show we’ll be more than alright. But if Sessions breaks out of his slump and Bell or Bogans makes some shots it’s going to be a rough night.
- Make shots. Not as extreme as Thursday with LMA back in the lineup but guys are going to have to put the ball in the bucket. Rudy is going to have to show up tonight. Blake as well. Travis has been playing pretty well, I’d just like to see him shoot a better percentage than Thursday.
Interested to see how the Blazers come out and respond to the Cleveland loss.