Game Details: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX. 6:30 PM. TV: ESPN. 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 Dallas Starting Lineup: PG Jason Kidd (#2, 6’4″, Cal), SG DeShawn Stevenson (#92, 6’5″, Washington Union High School), SF Caron Butler (#4, 6’7″, Connecticut), PF Dirk Nowitzki (#41, 7’0″, Germany), C Tyson Chandler (#6, 7’1″, Dominguez High School)
You know things are rough when the Blazers are only two games and less than a week removed from a four-game winning streak and it already seems utterly irrelevant. Even brushing off Sunday’s loss to San Antonio as an inevitability given the Spurs’ steely efficiency in all aspects of the game, their performance against Memphis on Monday was appalling. They (sort of) held their own for three quarters, but couldn’t buy a bucket in the nine-point fourth quarter. There’s no excuse for being held to 73 points by a mediocre-to-poor defensive team like the Grizzlies. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore: the Blazers are in serious, serious trouble right now.
And, as often happens in these situations, they couldn’t be facing a worse opponent in this funk than the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki is putting together an MVP-level season, and the offseason addition of injury-prone center Tyson Chandler has turned out to be a smart gamble. Chandler has stayed healthy and averaged 9 rebounds per game, making him a major defensive threat. Jason Kidd is having another solid year at point guard. Crucially, their bench is much deeper than the Blazers’ right now. Over the last week Portland has received virtually no production from their reserves, while the Mavs’ backups have been contributing solid minutes, particularly Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. If tonight’s game comes down to a battle of the benches, the Blazers will almost certainly come out on the losing end.
Since his 26-point performance against the Suns on Friday, Brandon Roy has been awful. His description of himself as playing a “Quentin Richardson” role is sadly appropriate at this point. The only two players on in Portland’s lineup that can consistently be counted on to play well are Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews. LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, and Joel Przybilla have to be on tonight–it’s bad enough having to handle Nowitzki, but adding a resurgent Chandler to the mix makes their job harder. The Mavericks of 2010-11 are a much better defensive team than they have been in years past, so this isn’t a game that can be won on big performances by a few players. Everybody’s shots need to fall, both in the starting lineups and off the bench, and lately that hasn’t been doable at all.
A win tonight for the Blazers would be huge–but then again, we’ve said that about several games this season that they’ve won, and then they’ve turned around and squandered any momentum they built up. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they lost at least one of their upcoming two home games against two of the worst teams in the league: if they only scored 73 points against Memphis, Saturday’s game against Golden State has the potential to be a 30-point blowout. Dallas is right in the mix in terms of contending teams in the West, and they only recently had an 11-game win streak snapped. They’ll be looking to rebound at home, and a struggling team like the Blazers gives them a good chance to do so. Believe me, I hate that these previews are becoming increasingly negative and defeatist, but the team’s play lately speaks for itself.