Blazers: 11-7 (4th Northwest Division)
Warriors: 5-11 (5th Pacific Division)
Game Details: ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA. 7:30 PM. TV: KGW Radio: KXTG (750 AM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), 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 Golden State Starting Lineup: PG Monta Ellis (#8, 6’3”, Lanier HS, Jackson, MS), SG Stephen Curry (#30, 6’3”, Davidson), SF Dorell Wright (#1, 6’9”, South Kent Prep HS, Lawndale, CA), PF David Lee (#10, 6’9”, Florida), C Andris Biedrins (#15, 7′, Riga, Latvia)
I fear that I’m about to start sounding like a broken record here, but this is a very important game, and not just because Portland needs to win out to match my predicted 11 wins for January. This is an important game because the Blazers need to prove they can beat an inferior team on the road, this is an important game because Portland needs to to show that three games in a row isn’t too much to overcome, and its an important game because the Blazers have only won once in the last 12 times they’ve played in Oakland.
The Warriors are not a good team right now, in fact they are second to last in the Western Conference, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Golden State plays the kind of game that Portland has trouble with, they push they pace, they take a lot of shots, and they try to create steals. The Blazers faced a much better version of the Warriors Tuesday, and did well. Unfortunately, Memphis is also a much more disciplined team than Golden State, and playing loose lends itself to the Warriors’ style. Meaning that as the Warriors flies off the rails, they are a lot more dangerous.
This game is going to be a lot like Monday’s game, minus the home court advantage for the Blazers. What Portland needs to do is figure out a way to play their kind of game. A more measured, well paced game, that includes a significant amount of half court offense and defense. Golden State can’t defend Portland in the half court, and they can score on the Blazers in half court sets, or at least, scoring in the half court isn’t what they do best.
What they do best is run and shoot. The Blazers need to limit turnovers, thus keeping a lid on the total number of fast break points. If Portland continues to cough up the ball on Wednesday the way they did Tuesday, they are in for a long night.
Another thing the Blazers need to do is try to make the Warriors make mistakes. This is a young team, with a first year coach. When they lost to Memphis at home on Monday night, they basically gave the game away in the fourth quarter. Down one, with no timeouts and no shot clock, the only shot Monta Ellis could get was a heaved corner three that barely drew iron. They make a lot of bad plays. If Portland can play tough defense, and make Golden State work, they should be able to get the Warriors to play themselves into a hole, or maybe even out of the game.
I’ll leave it at that, this is the third game in three nights, and I’m sure everybody is having a little blog reading fatigue.
Couple of things to watch for:
- Gerald Wallace: I say it every night. Gerald Wallace is key. Again, Golden State doesn’t have the personnel to stop him, so he should be able to get anything he wants at any time. That being said, Crash has had trouble in his last few outings, and got worked over pretty hard in Tuesday’s win. I think tonight might just be Gerald’s big breakout game on the road.
- Will somebody step up, and where will they come from: These Blazers are going to be tired. Somebody is going to have to bring some energy, and very likely it’s going to have to come off the bench. I like Nicolas Batum, it could also come from Craig Smith. However, there’s a possibility it will come from an even less likely source. Nolan Smith has looked ready to have a coming-out kind of night, and you never know, third game in three nights coach Nate McMillan might finally reach back and lift Elliot Williams off the end of the bench. An athlete like that, he most definitely is not tired.
- Can Portland take advantage of this team: Golden State has to know that they’ve had Portland’s number the last few years. Maybe they will overlook the Blazers. It’s unlikely, but any time a team thinks they’ve got a win in the bad because of the historical record, they are vulnerable.
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