Blazers facing a tough stretch before the Break

As Coup stated in his re-thoughts, last night was one of the few times the Blazers just went out and beat up on a team for a full 48 minutes. One of the rare occasions that Portland has not had to sweat a game or look back in the rearview mirror wishing for a few minutes back. It seems like the cherry on top of the sundae that has been this season. Gutty efforts, injuries, etc…you know the deal. The reward? An unbelievable stretch before the All-Star Break: five games against Western Conference playoff contenders. That’s right they face (as of right now) the #1, #4, #5, #7 and the team tied for #8. It kind of reminds me of how in college a semester can just be cruising right along and then a week before Spring Break, assignments and tests are falling out of the sky and if you botch it your grade could be done. It starts with a game in Salt Lake City tomorrow which comes less than a week after the Jazz completely destroyed us at home. Also I feel compelled to remind you that the Blazers have lost 17 of their last 19 in Salt Lake City dating back to 2001 and are actually only 8-30 in that building since it came into existence in 1991. Name changes apparently do nothing. And you wonder why I can’t stand the Jazz. *vomit*  Then we host the Spurs, Lakers (eager to break their Rose Garden curse) and the young Thunder. And then it is capped off by a trip to Phoenix next Wednesday…a building where Portland has lost 9 in a row and 15 of their last 17. Fun times right?

This is arguably one of (if not) THE most important stretch of the season right here. Not just because of the quality of opponents but also because of the little separation between teams. Portland is 1.5 games behind the Jazz, tied with the Suns and only 1.5 games ahead of Memphis/Oklahoma City. As well as this first half of the season has gone under the circumstances, it would be a shame for it to all fall apart in this next week. Because all of a sudden, you’re limping into the All-Star Break and come back behind the 8-ball having to catch up.

When I look at this stretch, I have to pencil in the games in Utah and Phoenix as L’s. Not because it’s mission impossible, just because as the statistics I shared above show…history is not on our side. I mean I believe in the lady whose on Maury for the 5th time looking for her baby’s daddy’s chances of being right than Portland winning in Utah or Phoenix. That means we’ll need to sweep the home games to have a chance at winning this mini-stretch. In my eyes, 3-2 would be pretty dang good and very realistic. 2-3 wouldn’t burn me up to bad, if only because our home court advantage is not quite as strong and has diminished my RG swag by about 1000 points.  Anything less would be uncivilized…or just really bad. Thoughts?

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers

  • Travis

    Some thoughts:

    Clearly a key stretch, although not make-or-break on the season. One of the first things that comes to mind: When will Roy be back, and will they bring him back too soon again? I’m inclined to say that I’d like to see him sit right through the All Star Game. When the Blazers play like they did last night against Charlotte, they can beat any team, with or without Roy. It’s more important to have him fully healthy after the ASG, and we know how hamstring injuries can stick around.

    I’m worried more about the game in Utah than the game in Phoenix, although Robin Lopez suddenly plays basketball and he’s going to cause problems for our “bigs.” Which leads me to this: How will LaMarcus Aldridge play during this stretch? Prior to the Dallas game, I liked what I saw. Then Miller shouldered the weight and bailed out LA, who was bad on both ends of the floor late in the Dallas game. The Charlotte game didn’t call for LA to be big, either, and he had a nice, pedestrian game. He’s going to have to be better than that. He’s going to have to muscle up inside and grab defensive rebounds. Milsap, Duncan, Bynum, Gasol, Amare. If LA can play with them, the Blazers can stay in those games. (And, of course, it’s about team defense, too.)

    After that, it’s on Nate in my eyes. How long does he let, say, Williams, or Westbrook, work the pick and roll against Blake and Howard? What I mean is, I think (like I always do) that Nate needs to rely heavily on Bayless and Miller and give Blake a short leash. Like I haven’t said that a million times.

  • SJ

    Definitely not make-or-break but if there was a cliche to describe the level below it I would use that one. Pure speculation I highly doubt that the Blazers rush Roy back to the court again, I feel like they will probably hold him out longer than they need to just for precautions.

    The Suns worry me because they can score, score, score, especially at home. You bring up a good point about LaMarcus…this is going to be a challenging week for him. None of these matchups can be considered favorable for him but he will have to keep playing well for the Blazers to have a shot.

    Don’t forget about Nash in the pick and roll.