Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR, 7: PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected Toronto Starting Lineup: PG Jarrett Jack (#1, 6’3″, Georgia Tech), SG DeMar DeRozan (#10, 6’7″, USC), SF Linas Kleiza (#11, 6’8″, Missouri), PF Reggie Evans (#30, 6’8″, Iowa), C Andrea Bargnani (#7, 7′, Italy)
On the surface, a game like this one (in November, against one of the very worst teams in the league) shouldn’t tell us anything. However, for a team like the Blazers, who have recorded some nice wins against mediocre-to-good teams and so far lost the only two games they’ve played against real contenders, it could say a lot. Elite teams are able to take care of these games. If the Blazers struggle against the Raptors, we might have some issues.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Toronto is a bad, bad team. They have some nice players, sure–former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Barngani is having the best scoring season of his career, and guard DeMar DeRozan is looking like a candidate for a breakout year as well. But with Chris Bosh gone, the Raptors are a team without any real chemistry, no true go-to scorer, and very little identity. There isn’t a lot this team knows how to do besides score, and even in that department they are lacking. As the Nuggets try desperately to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay, they would do well to learn from Toronto’s mistake. By letting their star walk and getting nothing in return, the Raptors have become the worst kind of non-contender: a franchise with no face, no cap room (did anybody really think $34 million for Amir Johnson was a good idea?), and not really any chance to grow in the next few years. Nobody would be surprised in the slightest if they finished at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference this season.
Simply put, there is no excuse–none–for the Blazers not to win tonight. Even with Rudy Fernandez out for the second game in a row with a back injury and Marcus Camby questionable with a migrane, they are a far, far superior team. The Blazers are also at home with a day of rest, while the Raptors will be on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off a hard-fought loss to the Lakers last night. Given Portland’s upcoming slate of games (the Lakers tomorrow at Staples, and then New Orleans twice, Oklahoma City, Denver, and Utah later in the month), it is absolutely crucial that they take care of business at home against bad teams.