Game 59 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks

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Blazers: 33-25

Hawks: 35-23

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:30 PM. TV: ESPN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, 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 Atlanta Starting Lineup: PG Kirk Hinrich (#6, 6’4″, Kansas), SG Joe Johnson (#2, 6’7″, Arkansas), SF Marvin Williams (#24, 6’9″, North Carolina), PF Josh Smith (#5, 6’9″, Oak Hill Academy), C Al Horford (#15, 6’10”, Florida)

Two major changes to the Blazers’ roster will take effect tonight, both of which figure to help the team out tremendously over the rest of the season. The first is, of course, the Portland debut of Gerald Wallace. The former Bobcat will come off the bench while getting acclimated to his new teammates, and tonight, his presence on the second unit will be a nice upgrade from the thin crop of reserves Nate McMillan has had to work with lately. The second major addition to the lineup, which can be filed under “might as well be a trade-deadline acquisition,” is the return of Marcus Camby from knee surgery. Camby will reportedly be limited to 20 minutes tonight, but he will start.

The combination of Camby and Aldridge in the frontcourt will be crucial in battling one of the most defensively sound front lines in the league in Atlanta’s Josh Smith and Al Horford. Outside of Horford and Smith, the Hawks’ two biggest scoring threats are Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Jamal Crawford, and Wallace’s addition gives Portland three potential matchups for those two in Wallace, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. The Hawks’ recent trade of Mike Bibby for Kirk Hinrich is a significant upgrade defensively. Beyond that, their defense and offense both suffer significant dropoffs.

The return of Camby and the addition of Wallace also make it more realistic for the Blazers to stick to the supposed 15-minute limit on Brandon Roy. He played 24 minutes Friday night against the Nuggets, which was arguably necessary as Portland was ridiculously shorthanded for that game. He played quite well, but it’s important for McMillan and the rest of the coaching staff not to get carried away giving him too heavy a load in his first few games back.

My guess is that Wallace won’t have too much trouble fitting in right off the bat. The Blazers have plenty of guys who can score the ball—all they need him to do tonight is crash the boards and play hard-nosed defense. Anything he can give them on offense is a bonus, which is a pretty good position to be in since Wallace is an extremely capable offensive player too. In Wallace, Camby, and Aldridge, the Blazers have three players capable of grabbing 10 rebounds on any given night.

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