Blazers: 15-14 (3rd Northwest Division)
Warriors: 11-14 (3rd Pacific Division)
Game Details: ORACLE Arena Oakland, CA. 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 Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8’’, MSB Le Mans, France) , PF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7’’, Alabama), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11’’, Massachusetts)
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)
Portland’s in a tight spot. Right now they need a win more than they need almost anything. They’ve dropped three straight at home, four of their last five, and two in a row. Apparently coach Nate McMillan’s job is on the line, although that’s a pretty common theme every season, and the Blazers, in the eight spot at the moment are on the verge of falling headlong into a decade of losing, lottery picks, and loser lottery picks.
And just to sweeten the pot, Portland has to travel to Oakland. The Blazers aren’t good in a lot of places. But ORACLE Arena is their kryptonite. We all know that the last time Portland won in Oakland color TVs hadn’t been invented and men and women had just come down from the trees and started walking on two legs.
Oh yeah. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t playing. And, did I forget to mention, the Warriors are basically a carbon copy of the Wizards, the team that annihilated Portland 24 hours ago, but with better inside scorers? How do you feel about tonight?
I’ll tell you how the Blazers should feel. Like this is an opportunity. Portland is not a bad team. They’re playing very badly at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. When they were engaged against Washington–an amount of time that when added up probably equaled about one half of one quarter–they got easy buckets, and open looks, and created turnovers, and bad shots. That same output against Golden State will result in yet another beating. But playing 48 minutes of engaging offense and defense might be enough to at least not get destroyed.
And that’s why this is an opportunity. No Blazer fans expect a win. The Blazers themselves are probably not expecting to win. Golden State–Monta Ellis especially after watching the game tape and seeing Nick Young have field day–is probably expecting to win by 1,000. It’s the perfect combination of elements for a trap game…for the Warriors. Portland will have to play like they actually know what they’re doing, a tall order no doubt, but hey, anything is possible.
I know that I probably sound like an idiot fan boy, claiming that games are winnable even after they are already over, but I still think this team has a lot of potential. Their showing against Washington was the worst of the year–beating out losing to the Pistons because it was a home game and they never made it close–and that makes me think that it can only get better.
Nate talked about pride in his post game Tuesday night. Guys were open about being frustrated and embarrassed, and being at the point of putting up or shutting up. Playing to not be embarrassed further probably isn’t the best motivation, but it might be motivation enough.
Here’s what I will be watching for:
- Will somebody step up: Tuesday night Portland looked absolutely lost offensively without LaMarcus on the floor. That makes sense. He’s the entry point of the offense, everything works around him initiating. The Blazers will not have the excuse of losing LA suddenly in the game’s opening quarter this time out, and hopefully that will be incentive enough for somebody to take the lead on offense. Wesley Matthews, Raymond Felton, and Jamal Crawford are all in various stages of playing themselves out of town. Losing all three of those guys at the same time might crater the team, but if one of them doesn’t start playing better you just never know what the future will hold for Portland’s back-court trio. I expect that the standout player will be Nicolas Batum or maybe Gerald Wallace, but I’ll take a good performance from anybody.
- Defense: Portland should be most embarrassed about their defense the last few nights. It was especially horrible Tuesday against the Wizards. Golden State will do much of the same thing Washington did; lots of high pick and rolls to free up outside shooters, lots of swinging the ball from side-to-side to stretch the defense, and LOTS OF THREES. The Blazers’ perimeter defense on Tuesday was awful, but they’ve played good perimeter defense in the past. If they can play 48 minutes of strong, committed defense they can win. That means defense both inside and outside of the key.
- Hustle and stuff like that: The Blazers will win or lose this game on hustle. That means outworking Golden State on rebounds, getting turnovers, completing fast breaks, things like that. Again, Portland should be embarrassed about every facet of Tuesday’s game. They need to prove to themselves that they can hustle, do the little things, and fight for a win. I feel like I say this a lot: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START.
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