Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:30 PM. TV: TNT. Radio: KTXG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected Denver Starting Lineup: PG Chauncey Billups (#1, 6’3″, Colorado), SG Arron Afflalo (#6, 6’5″, UCLA), SF Carmelo Anthony (#15, 6’8″, Syracuse), PF Shelden Williams (#23, 6’9″, Duke), C Nene Hilario (#31, 6’11″, Brazil)
It’s hard to care about something like a game, especially one in November, given what the last 24 hours have brought us, but I’m going to try anyway. After all, it’s not like Greg Oden was going to play tonight for the Blazers against the division-rival Denver Nuggets. The news about Greg is devastating, but we have no choice but to move on in the meantime.
The far more relevant injury tonight is, of course, that of Brandon Roy, who will miss his second consecutive game with nagging knee troubles. Wesley Matthews will once again start in his place. Matthews was spectacular on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 30 points in Roy’s absence. Another game like that from him will go a long way towards beating the Nuggets, who have historically matched up pretty well against Portland. Nicolas Batum will face one of his toughest defensive assignments of the season so far in Carmelo Anthony, one of the most unstoppable scorers in the league. Despite the swirling trade talk, Anthony’s focus so far this year on winning in Denver has been unchanged. He’s been averaging 24.6 points per game, but he’s never been known for his defense, so there’s a chance for Batum to put together another big scoring night.
Defense will be key for Portland tonight. LaMarcus Aldridge should try to pull down double-figure rebounds, and Marcus Camby needs to stay out of foul trouble. Look for Armon Johnson and Dante Cunningham to get big minutes tonight, due to their defensive playmaking abilities. Andre Miller will be going against one of the steadiest veteran point guards in the game in Chauncey Billups.
Given Oden’s tragic injury and the media frenzy that has resulted, a win tonight would be huge for the Blazers’ morale. They have Their next two games are against two of the toughest teams in the Western Conference, Utah and New Orleans. Out of the three, the Nuggets are the team they have the best chance to beat, but it’s far from a lock. This game is on national TV, so I’d strongly advise you watch it with the sound off unless you want to be reminded time and time again about Oden. Listen to music instead–just make sure you don’t pick Jay-Z’s Blueprint album. It’s one of the best rap albums of all time, but I played it last night and, as I always do, forgot that “Hola Hovito” contains the line “I ball for real/Y’all n****s is Sam Bowie.”