…And now the real fun begins. This is what we have all been waiting for. There is no way anyone should be able to complain about meaningful, late-season basketball in early April. Tonight is going to be a battle between two teams who need this game. On one hand, Portland needs it for ‘seeding’ purposes as they attempt to hold off the Thunder and Spurs and avoid falling to the #7 or #8 seed. I won’t go as far as saying they ‘control their own destiny’ simply because the 2-5 seedings are all out of wack, and the Blazers can realistically get no higher than #6. It doesn’t feel any different than it did a week or so ago, Portland just needs to win. On the other hand, Dallas finds themselves in that 2-5 mess and are looking to reach the #2 spot and clinch the Southwest Division title. A lot is on the line here tonight and after watching Portland ‘take care of business’ against lottery teams, it will be nice to see them face a quality opponent once again.
These two teams faced off a little over two weeks ago, a 101-89 Portland victory. Since then Dallas has won 4 of 6, with two home losses to Orlando and Oklahoma City. Portland meanwhile has won 5 of 6, so both teams are coming in with their heads up. You know Dallas’ personnel by now so you know they are incredibly talented. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Caron Butler all have the ability to steal your soul. So talent is not their problem. Dallas’ problem this year has been consistency. Since the All-Star Break, some games they have been tremendous and others they have been mediocre. Seriously…just look at their recent stretch. One day they lose by 12 to us, a couple days later they beat Denver by 16, then they get blown out at home by Orlando. They are like that girl in college who is super attractive but for some reason she shows up to a class looking a beast…they just shouldn’t do the things they do sometimes.
The keys to that win over Dallas two weeks ago were…..de-fense, clap clap. Portland was excellent in rotating, taking things away and playing great defense as a unit. That will have to continue tonight as I’m sure Dallas will be more prepared for a stronger Blazer defensive team. Portland has held opponents to 90 or below in 7 of their last 9 games, losing only one of those games (at Phoenix). The personnel is there to frustrate Dirk and co….but Portland has to be prepared for others to step up. Jason Terry in particular fancies sticking it to the Blazers and if you recall Caron Butler not only killed us last time, but he got in a cussing match with a fan and lost some dough. He might decide to show up in Portland to kick ass and chew straws…and he might be all out of straws. The defense needs to be there and Portland needs to be in attack mode. I know we have guys who can hit the mid-range but I’d like to see a little more aggression in attacking the basket. And then…there is the bench. *sigh*.
This is a playoff preview of sorts, not just because these two teams may match up in the first round but simply because these are two playoff level teams playing for something. It should be fun to watch. I firmly believe that Dallas is the ideal first round opponent for the Blazers, and while the seeding may make that tough to happen…let’s hope the Blazers prove me right tonight.