Be careful Blazer fans, as this game has all the makings of a nice sized trap.
Portland rolls into Charlotte with a 4-game winning streak in their bag. They are also currently 3-0 on their current 5-game road trip. The Bobcats meanwhile are 3-5 and have lost three straight games. This road trip has a pattern of Portland facing teams with inferior talent which they should defeat and tonight is no different. The question, as always is will they go out and do it. Beware of the Bobcats. Why? You never doubt a Larry Brown coached team. I don’t care how many failures he has or how many times I grant the Bobcats ‘unwatchable’ status on League Pass, the man has my respect. You know the Bobcats are going to play hard. Also, Charlotte actually has a little bit of history on their side. And by little bit, I mean the two-game win streak they have over Portland in Charlotte. Gerald Wallace really likes becoming a complete monster against the Blazers in Charlotte. Who could forget him dropping 31 and 16 last year and making Blazer Nation go all Lady GaGa about his game? I can’t.
To the Bobcats…with them it is all about effort, defense and rebounding. As stated before, Larry Brown teams are going to play hard. That’s just the facts of life, he’s not putting people out there that are not going to work. Statistically that effort has translated very well when it comes to defense and rebounding. Bet you didn’t know that the Bobcats are holding opponents to 89.6 PPG a game this year (6th in the league) and have only had one team score triple digits on them this season. And that game went to overtime. Rebounding wise, they boast the top rebounder in the NBA right now…Mr. Gerald Wallace (12.3 boards a game). They’re one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the league, coming in at fifth averaging 12.9 offensive boards a game. Almost impressed right? Let me tear down that wall, because those offensive rebounding stats lead us to the other end of the spectrum. They are just a horrible offensive team. They get a lot of offensive rebounds because they miss a lot of shots. The Bobcats average a pedestrian 83.5 points per game, shooting a staggering 39% from the field and 28.9% from behind the arc. Those stats would make Jay-Z add five more ‘ewwwwwwwww’ verses to ‘Run This Town’.
Sticking with the Bobcats anemic offense, they have talent but the talent just is not producing. Charlotte boasts only four guys who average double digits in points, but have five guys who average double digit field goal attempts. Yucky. If you’ve read this blog you know it tends to drive me insane when a player’s field goal attempts are either right around or above their point total. If this were a Bobcat blog my brain would have exploded by now because nearly their whole team does it. Gerald Wallace is averaging 13.9 PPG and 12.9 FGA’s a game. Raymond Felton averages 12.4 PPG and 12.5 FGA’s. Raja Bell 12.3 PPG/11 FGA’s, Boris Diaw 11.9 PPG/10.3 FGA and Flip Murray 9.3 PPG/10.3 FGA. Such an efficient team offensively.
For the most part Charlotte is a team that plays hard but just does not have the talent to win night in and night out. That’s because they don’t really have a superstar. If you broke down this team and sent half of these guys to contenders they would blossom. However they all just seem like they have a little too much repsonsiblity on their shoulders. Gerald Wallace is a great player, but I’m not sure he’s meant to be ‘The Man’. Felton is a capable guard, and he’s shown it in the past but he needs weapons around him to either a) give him more room to score or b) give him more room to create. Bell and Diaw have shown how good they can be, but neither should be relied on as a #3 scoring option. Their bench? Oh boy. DJ Augustin won’t play a lot because he’s a defensive liability. Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmonovic are known more for those times you picked them up on your fantasy team because they had two good games, then they started sucking and you dropped them than for anything they will do tonight.
Keys to the game:
- Match their effort. There are so many ‘talent v effort’ cliches out there that I can’t think of one to really fit. But we know the only way the Bobcats can beat Portland is by outplaying and outhustling them. It will be disappointing if we going in knowing that and the Bobcats end up doing it. Portland has to match Charlotte’s effort from the start and then allow their talent to overwhelm them as the game goes on.
- Nothing easy. If Portland turns the ball over or sends the Bobcats to the line, that’s generating easy offense for a team that is a complete failure offensively. Make them earn everything they get. If by some miracle they are able to outplay us for 48 minutes and take a victory we’ll all just say ‘they had one of those days’ and move on. That’s easier to swallow than 16 turnovers or Gerald Wallace marching to the line 20 times. Make them beat us.
- Control the glass. Giving up second shots is almost always death, but again against a mediocre offensive team it becomes more important to finish stops with a rebound. Wallace, Diaw and Chandler all averaging 2 or more offensive rebounds a game. Limit them to one shot and we’ll be able to out play them. We have more beef than them, let’s use it to our advantage.
- Someone not named Roy/LaMarcus has to show up. Travis, Martell, Blake and Rudy have all taken turns crapping the bed on this road trip. Each of them only has one double figure scoring game this trip and actually Mr. Outlaw has zero. We know this team is at its best when they get balanced scoring. And besides these guys are going to have to start showing up because the talent level is about to go up here shortly. We learned in the playoffs that if the Roy/LMA show doesn’t get a supporting cast, it will fail.
- Prepare for an ugly win. Portland has been winning ugly as of late, no problem with that. Charlotte…well they just play ugly and hope to win. Portland’s got to be ready for a slugfest, almost similar to last night and trust that their talent will prevail.
A win tonight can officially make this a very successful road trip. Portland is going to have to take it to Charlotte because they aren’t lying down for anyone. If the Blazers play solid defense, don’t turn the ball over, don’t foul and don’t shoot 20% I don’t see how they don’t pull out a win. Stranger things have happened though.
(Sidenote: No one should wear #23 just so we can no longer see Devin Brown peeing on MJ’s legacy more than MJ is by pretending to be an exec. Oh yes I did.)
Topics: Blazers, Boris Diaw, Brandon Roy, Charlotte Bobcats, Gerald Wallace, Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Brown, Martell Webster, Portland, Portland Charlotte, Portland Trail Blazers, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton, Rudy Fernandez, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw