Game 17 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers

Blazers: 8-8

Sixers: 4-13

Game Details: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA. 4:00 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 Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)

Projected Philadelphia Starting Lineup: PG Jrue Holiday (#11, 6’4″, UCLA), SG Evan Turner (#12, 6’7″, Ohio State), SF Andre Igoudala (#9, 6’6″, Arizona), PF Elton Brand (#42, 6’9″, Duke), C Spencer Hawes (#0, 7’1″, Washington)

There’s no more dancing around it: the Blazers are at a crossroads. They’ve lost three straight, two of which being games they controlled until the fourth quarter. A team that began the season looking almost unstoppable in the final period now seemingly can’t close out a game to save its life. The team called a players-only meeting after Sunday’s late loss to New Jersey, which according to various players went well. Nate McMillan is shaking things up at least for tonight, starting Wesley Matthews at small forward instead of Nicolas Batum. Batum previously showed signs of delivering on the enormous potential the Blazers saw in him, but has struggled to find his role offensively in recent games. Matthews, meanwhile, has blossomed into one of the Blazers’ most reliable scoring options, putting up 25 against the Nets.

At 4-13, Philadelphia currently holds the worst record in the Eastern Conference, but the way the Blazers have been playing lately, that’s no guarantee of anything. The Sixers have won two in a row and will look to build on that momentum at home. The last two games, Brandon Roy has shown almost no signs of recurring knee trouble, but the rest of the team’s shooting has been atrocious. McMillan is hoping that the new starting lineup will capitalize on Matthews’ recent string of solid scoring games and restore some of the energy on the offensive end from the first few games. Batum, meanwhile, is going to try his hand at being a sixth man, at least for a few games. Andre Igoudala missed several games earlier this month for Philadelphia with a strained achilles, but he has played well the last four games since returning to action.

A win tonight would prevent the Blazers from going on their first four-game losing streak since the 2007-08 season, and restore at least a little momentum leading into tomorrow’s game in Boston. The Celtics are arguably the best team in the league besides the Lakers, and that game will be as tough as any they will play this season. A solid win over the Sixers tonight would be, if not a turning point, at least an encouraging sign that things may be looking up for the Blazers.

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