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November 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nets 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (6-6) Vs. Brooklyn Nets (7-4)

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Beginning at the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, there was a new question on every NBA fan’s mind. That question, would the Brooklyn of the West Coast (Portland) still be able to maintain its stranglehold on home of the largest number of hipster NBA fans now that the Brooklyn of the East Coast (Brooklyn) has itself a full fledged professional basketball team?

Sunday in BK, the first of two match-ups of the league’s respective “home of the hipsters” commences. I’m sure there will be plenty of cuts of dudes in the stands wearing plastic framed glasses, beanies, and beards dressed head-to-toe in Brooklyn black-and-white. There will probably even be at least one mention of the various artisan snacks and beers available in the Barclay Center concourse. I’m sure Jay-Z will come up too. In truth, no matter how hard we try in Portland, it’s going to be hard to out-Brooklyn Brooklyn.

Hipsters should hope for a push, when it comes to fashion and aesthetic for Sunday’s game. If they can achieve that, there’s a chance when the Nets come to Portland hipster Blazer fans can really hipster out and put an end to the whole hipster discussion one and for all.

But don’t forget, there’s going to be a basketball game too.

Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF J.J. Hickson Aldridge, C Meyers Leonard

Nets Starting 5: PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries, C Brook Lopez

Portland is maybe the team in the NBA with the worst bench. Brooklyn, though, may be the elite squad with the worst bench (unless you’re one of those NBA fans who count this season’s Lakers as an elite squad). Teams like the Spurs and the Thunder and the Grizzlies and the Heat can all go pretty deep into their rotations. The Thunder no longer have a Sixth Man of the Year, and the Heat may rely too heavily on veterans at or near their very last legs, but both of those teams, not to mention teams like the Clippers and the Spurs with full second squads, aren’t being forced to play Andray Blatche 17 minutes a game.

If Brooklyn has a weakness that can be exploited by a team like Portland, it very well might be their bench. I know it’s strange to say that considering how bad the Blazers’ bench is and will continue to be, but there’s potential there, should one of Portland’s reserves find a way to get hot, for the visiting team to give themselves a leg up.

It’s foolhardy, for sure, to put faith in the Blazers’ second unit, but anything is possible, especially considering that nobody thinks Portland should be in this game at all.

What to Watch For

  • Damian Lillard vs. Deron Williams. Sunday is going to be one of the biggest early season tests for Portland’s rookie PG. As we all know, Lillard has played remarkably well through his first 12 games. He’s also had to play against a murder’s row of the league’s best point guards. That being said, he’s yet to play against one like Deron Williams. That’s because there is only one point guard like Deron Williams, and that’s Deron Williams. For my money Chris Paul is a better pure point guard, but when it comes to scoring points guards, the only one better than Williams is Derrick Rose. Lillard hasn’t quite been exposed as a bad on the ball defender, but it is clearly the element of his game that needs the most work. Bad on the ball defense won’t kill a guy when it’s being played against somebody like Minnesota’s Luke Ridnour. Being unable to stop a guy like Deron Williams, however, can be a game breaker. Look for Williams to try and take Lillard into the post and over power him. Also look for head coach Terry Stotts to make the early switch to Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews on Deron Williams (or more likely a switch to zone defense since Lillard wouldn’t be very effective on Joe Johnson or Gerald Wallace) if things get out of hand early.
  • Rebounding. Kris Humphries is a great rebounder. Portland got lucky to beat Minnesota on Friday considering Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic got almost all the rebounds. If the Blazers get destroyed on the offensive glass, it could be a long night in Brooklyn.
  • Size vs. Speed. The Nets have a size advantage at almost every position. Portland can mitigate the relative size disparity by getting out in the open court. Friday’s game turned when the Blazers turned over the Timberwolves and created a few easy buckets. Defense leading to turnovers leading to offense should be Portland’s game plan Sunday.

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]

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Tags: Brooklyn Nets Portland Trail Blazers

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