Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 6:00 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 Los Angeles Starting Lineup: PG Eric Bledsoe (#12, 6’1″, Kentucky), SG Eric Gordon (#10, 6’3″, Indiana), SF Al-Farouq Aminu (#3, 6’9″, Wake Forest), PF Blake Griffin (#32, 6’10″, Oklahoma), C DeAndre Jordan (#9, 6’11″, Texas A&M)
On the bright side, things can’t get much worse for Portland than they are now. The Blazers have lost six games in a row, five of which they blew late, including a few to pretty bad teams. They haven’t won a game since November 19, when they beat the Nuggets at home. The four-game road trip they just completed may well be the low point of the post-Jail Blazers era. The “fire Nate McMillan” talk is starting to become something a little more tangible than just a few disgruntled fans. There is legitimate concern right now as to whether the Blazers will even make the playoffs.
Friday’s abomination of a game against the Wizards was notable only for the return of Joel Przybilla, who played well in limited minutes, taking charges, going after rebounds and loose balls, and providing some much-needed (to put it mildly) added presence in the middle. The Vanilla Gorilla is sure to get a monstrous ovation from the home fans tonight, which could be the lift the Blazers need. Przybilla will also be crucial tonight, as the Blazers are going to need everything they’ve got against Blake Griffin. The 2009 No. 1 overall pick has been nothing short of beastly through the first quarter of the regular season, making a strong case for himself as Rookie of the Year. He made his NBA debut against Portland, and although the Blazers won that game, Griffin posted an impressive 20-and-14 line and had a couple of highlight-reel dunks. He’s only gotten more confident since then, and will likely be the main thing the Blazers have to worry about tonight. Third-year guard Eric Gordon has also played well for the Clippers, scoring at least 20 points in each of his last seven games. He will likely be Wesley Matthews’ defensive assignment tonight. Other than that, the Clippers are nothing to write home about, and their rotation issues concerning Baron Davis and, to a lesser extent, Chris Kaman, make them somewhat vulnerable.
This is a winnable game for Portland, but they can’t make the kinds of mistakes they’ve been making lately. Players besides Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews need to step up offensively, and the team’s turnovers need to be cut drastically. Patty Mills played the first non-garbage-time minutes of his pro career on the road trip, and despite a few too many turnovers, he mostly acquitted himself fine. There’s a good chance we’ll see more of him tonight. Przybilla played well in his return on Friday, and should be key in the Blazers’ defensive effort, which has been lackluster of late. A win tonight wouldn’t tell us a lot, given the opponent, but it would certainly be a much-needed step in the right direction after one of the worst two-week stretches in the Blazers’ recent history.