Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. TV: KGW, NBA TV. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).
The good news for the Blazers is that, after dropping two winnable games in a row and playing four in five days, they are coming into tonight’s game with two days’ rest. The bad news: the competition doesn’t get any easier from here on out, and tonight, they face the second-best team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks.
The Blazers haven’t beaten the Mavs this season, but the two times they’ve played, LaMarcus Aldridge has been spectacular. Matching up with Dirk Nowitzki, he will have to continue this pattern. Dallas has lost three of its last five games, but when they’re on, they’re as good as any team in the league. Aside from Nowitzki, who needs no introduction, they have scoring threats in Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and Rodrigue Beaubois. The center tandem of Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler is generally reliable.
Portland tonight will be bringing Marcus Camby off the bench, going small and starting Gerald Wallace in his place. It will be Crash’s first start as a Blazer, and while it could be risky to try out a new lineup against a team as good as Dallas, time is running out in the season for Nate McMillan to play with the lineup. By the end of the next four weeks, the Blazers’ playoff rotation will need to be set in stone and operating as efficiently as possible.
This is the part of the season in which the Blazers need more than ever to prove they’re for real. They have a slew of tough games coming up, and some frisky competition for playoff seeding in Phoenix, Memphis, and Denver (Mike has a nice rundown of these teams here) A statement win over a contender like Dallas would go a long way towards cementing Portland as a team that will be legit come mid-April.