Blazers: 12-9 (4th Northwest Division)
Bobcats: 3-19 (5th Southeast Division)
Game Details: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)
Projected Blazers 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’’, Massachusetts)
Projected Bobcats Starting Lineup: PG Kemba Walker (#1, 6’1’’, Connecticut), SG Gerald Henderson (#15, 6’4’’, Duke), SF Boris Diaw (#32, 6’8’’,Cormeille-en-Parisis, France), PF Tyrus Thomas (#12, 6’10’’, Louisiana State,), C DeSagana Diop (#7, 7’, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA)
The Blazers are going to be tested more than once in the month of February, but hopefully not this first night out. Charlotte is a lottery team most years, and they were last year. That lottery pick turned into the University of Connecticut’s Kemba Walker. Kemba’s a good player, but he’s not the kind of player that turns a lottery team into a contender on his own.
So let’s take it as read that this game is Portland’s to lose. How will the Blazers not lose this game? Well that’s pretty simple, show up. And since Wednesday’s contest is at the Rose Garden, and not some other team’s home gym, I doubt very much Portland won’t show up.
Although no game is an automatic win, Wednesday will be as close as it comes. That doesn’t mean the Bobcats are going to roll over and let Portland beat them by 40. What it does mean, though, is that the Blazers should come out with the intention of beating this team by 40. It probably won’t happen, but bringing energy early and making this a two or three quarter game, instead of a four quarter game, could go a long way to set the tone for the rest of what will turn out to be a crucial month of this campaign.
A couple of things to watch for:
- Elliot Williams: Nicolas Batum is out for this one with a bone contusion. It very easily could have been worse, so let’s all be glad that it’s not. The silver lining, if you want to think of it as that, is that without Batum in the lineup, one of Portland’s reserves is going to get a chance for some real minutes. Coach Nate McMillan has designated that those minutes are going to go to Elliot Williams. This should be interesting. Williams probably circled this data on his calendar preseason as one of the games he had a shot of getting in to. Now he’s in for sure. Elliot can play, there’s no doubt about that, the question is can he play when it’s not garbage time. Against Phoenix, Williams got some minutes and made the most of them. As a garbage time player there’s no reason he shouldn’t shoot the rock every time he touches it. We’ll see if Elliot has the basketball skill to defer to his teammates should he be in the game when it’s close and his jumpers aren’t falling.
- Wesley Matthews: Wesley Matthews has been on a streak of horrible games. He’s been working on getting to the rim to try and make up for the fact that his shooting has been down right terrible. That’s good; I could handle more of that. What Wesley really needs to do is have a big shooting night. He tends to play a lot better at home, with the Rose Garden crowd behind him. I can see a game that includes four or five threes for Wes being just the thing he needs to get over his shooting woes.
- Can Portland avoid a bounce-back game from Charlotte: The Bobcats have only won three games all season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t steal a win every now and then. Charlotte was in Los Angeles last night getting tuned by the Lakers. You have to be careful with a team the night after that happens. The Bobcats are playing for pride only the rest of the way, but I don’t think that makes them any less of a team of professionals that are very serious about what they do.
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**NOTE** I’m on the road right now for a couple of days, so I’ll do my best to watch tonight’s game and Thursday in Sacramento and get recaps up in a timely fashion**