Hasheem Thabeet night at the Rose Garden. Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Game 63 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz

Blazers: 28-34 (4th Northwest Division)

Jazz: 32-30 (3rd Northwest Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazer Starting Lineup: PG Nolan Smith (#2, 6′2”, Duke), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5”, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, MSB LE Mans, France), PF J.J. Hickson (#21, 6’9”, North Carolina State), C Hasheem Thabeet (#34, 7’3”, Connecticut)

Projected Jazz Starting Lineup: PG Devin Harris (#5, 6’3”, Wisconsin), SG C.J. Miles (#34, 6’6”, Skyline High School), SF Gordon Hayward (#20, 6’8”, Butler), PF Paul Millsap (#24, 6’8”, Louisiana Tech), C Al Jefferson (#25, 6’10”, Prentiss High School)

I’m a bit late getting this out. As I’m writing the game clock is winding down to around eight a half minutes, meaning that in real time the Blazers are less than 10 minutes from taking the floor at the Rose Garden for the final time for 2011-2012.

Last summer I was glued to twitter, following cryptic updates on a labor negotiation that seemed to be able to achieve the impossible: talk all day about one topic and accomplish absolutely nothing. I was the guy that would get my hopes up for every announcement by Billy Hunter (a person whose name I’ve thankfully forgotten and just had to look up) and the player’s union, and not because I was interested in seeing which NBA superstar was the latest to adopt the homeless guy with lens-less glasses look, with ridiculous expectations that the lockout would be ended and basketball would be allowed to start.

Why do I bring up the lockout now three minutes before the final home game of Portland’s season? Because no matter how poorly this season has been played, no matter how disappointed we’ve all been by the back-slide, no matter how sad this city is and will be to have to say good-bye to Brandon Roy, and Nate McMillan, and Greg Oden, and Gerald Wallace, and Marcus Camby, I’d rather have bad and depressing basketball than no basketball at all.

That’s all I have to say.

Here’s what I’ll be watching for as the Blazers face the Jazz for the second to last time of the season:

  • The difference in intensity: Utah is a mid-range shot at stealing the final spot in Western Conference Playoffs. They’re right now a half-game behind Phoenix and Houston. One-half of a game is not much. Utah will come out playing like this game means something, because to them it does. For the Blazers, not so much. Portland will have to dig deep to find the intensity to keep up with Utah.
  • Hasheem Thabeet all day: How long can he stay on the court? How can he impact the game? Can he be a scoring threat? Can he play defense? These are all questions that will be answered tonight. FINALLY.
  • Will there be fans for Fan Appreciation Night: Player introduction are happening as I write. At this moment the Rose Garden is less than half full, but filling up. My guess is even with Ovo in town and the Winterhawks playing a Game Seven next door, there will be people here. Most have stuck it out all year. No reason to quit now.

Email me: [email protected]

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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