Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: KGW/NBA TV. Radio: KXTG (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′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7′1″, Minnesota)
Projected Sacramento Starting Lineup: PG Beno Udrih (#19, 6’3″, Slovenia), SG Tyreke Evans (#13, 6’6″, Memphis), SF Francisco Garcia (#32, 6’7″, Louisville), PF Jason Thompson (#34, 6’11″, Rider), C DeMarcus Cousins (#15, 6’11″, Kentucky)
The Blazers have had a pretty easy schedule the last two weeks, and so far have been taking advantage of it, knocking off five wins in a row against lower-tier teams. Tonight is the last of these for now, as they face the Celtics on Thursday and then the Spurs and Nuggets next week.
Tonight, they face the Sacramento Kings at home. The Blazers beat the Kings last Wednesday, but it was a hard-fought overtime victory, certainly closer than any game against a team with Sacramento’s talent (or lack thereof) has any right to be. Part of that was the team reacting in real time to the news that Marcus Camby would require knee surgery. However, the last week has seen them start to come together as a unit despite playing absurdly shorthanded, with Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum stepping up and contributing increased scoring.
It’s unclear whether yesterday’s D-League call-up, Chris Johnson, will see any time tonight, but given that the Celtics, one of the toughest inside presences in the league, are next on the docket for the Blazers, giving Johnson a time tonight to get comfortable with his teammates might not be a terrible idea. Nate McMillan would do well to give him at least some of the minutes normally reserved for Sean Marks.
The other thing that will be interesting to see tonight is whether McMillan goes with Rudy Fernandez as the backup point guard, after how well that worked the other night against Indiana. Andre Miller is expected back in the lineup tonight after missing most of that game with stomach flu, so there won’t be nearly as many minutes to divide up behind him as there were with him out, but Fernandez looked as comfortable in that game as he has all year, while Patty Mills and Armon Johnson mostly looked lost.
Win or lose, don’t take too much away from this game. There will likely be some tinkering with rotations to integrate Johnson and juggle the backup point guards, so if the team lacks cohesion initially, it is to be expected. But this is still the worst team in the Western Conference we’re talking about, so if Portland’s shots are falling they should be able to come away with a win.