Game 77 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks

Blazers: 44-32

Mavericks: 53-34

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 6:00 PM. TV: NBA TV, CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11”, UMass)

Projected Dallas Starting Lineup: PG Jason Kidd (#2, 6’4″, California), SG Rodrigue Beaubois (#3, 6’2″, France), SF Shawn Marion (#0, 6’7″, UNLV), PF Dirk Nowitzki (#41, 7’0″, Germany), C Brendan Haywood (#33, 7’0″, North Carolina)

With six games to go in the regular season, every contest is important for the Blazers, but if you only watch one of these games, make it this one. If Portland can hold onto sixth place in the Western Conference, this game will likely serve as a preview of their first-round playoff matchup. Of course, to make that happen, they can’t very well afford to lose tonight.

As we saw a few weeks ago, the Gerald Wallace-era Blazers match up pretty well against the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki is going to cause problems no matter what, but the rest of the Mavs’ rotation, while solid, isn’t anything the Blazers can’t defend. We may not see the kind of fourth-quarter spurt from Brandon Roy that propelled Portland to a road win in Dallas on March 15, but if Friday night’s win over Oklahoma City proved anything, it’s that the team is capable of closing out games against top-tier playoff teams.

The Blazers caught a major break earlier today when the Mavs announced that center Tyson Chandler will miss tonight’s game with a back injury. Brendan Haywood is a decent backup, but after that, Dallas’ frontcourt rotation is a bit thin. The move back to starting Marcus Camby at center worked well against the Thunder, and with the news of Chandler’s injury, expect that lineup to be effective again.

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