Another Eastern Conference team faces the best in the West tonight when the Portland Trail Blazers (26-7) host the Philadelphia 76ers (11-21). Both teams are coming off a day’s rest and solid wins yet all of the focus is on the red hot Trail Blazers. After tying a team record of 21 made 3-pointers (out of 33 attempts) on Thursday against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Blazers look to stay hot from the perimeter.
Do you recall December 14, 2013? I can guarantee you the Sixers do. On that night, the Trail Blazers came into Philadelphia and hung 139 points on the Sixers en route to a 139-105 victory. But that wasn’t the whole story. The Blazers set a single-game team record for made 3-pointers with 21. Wait, didn’t they just do that on Thursday? Yes they did. This is the first time in NBA history that a team has had two games with 20 or more 3-point field goals made in a single season.
So what can we expect from the Blazers and Sixers in their last regular season matchup? I hope we can continue to see excellent ball movement and high percentage shots from the Blazers. I don’t think we will see 120+ points but I think they will keep their foot on the scoring pedal. The Sixers will try to win their fourth straight road win and erase what happened on December 14th from their memory. They will look to get Thaddeus Young the ball quick and often. During this current six-game road trip, Young is averaging 26.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- No injuries, though CJ McCollum will not be with the team.
- Nerlens Noel (knee) is still sidelined after having ACL surgery.
- Jason Richardson (knee) will also be out.
- Arnett Moultrie (ankle) participated in full practice for the first time this season three days ago but is still sidelined.
Keys To The Game
Robin Lopez vs. Spencer Hawes: This matchup watch might come as a little bit of a surprise to some of you. With Thaddeus Young and LaMarcus Aldridge on the court together, why do I want to watch the centers up against each other? The answer is simple. Hawes can shoot from distance. That will, in turn, draw Robin Lopez away from the basket which opens up a lot of paint for Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. The Blazers are one of the worst (if not the worst) at defending the paint. Robin Lopez has been a great asset this season and has helped a weak defensive team become mediocre. If Hawes is feeling it from the perimeter tomorrow, the Blazers will have to have someone else help around the rim.
Wesley Matthews: Wes has been the unmentionable glue that holds this Blazers team together. Lately he has been one of their hottest shooters averaging 20.0 points over the last ten games. Defense is where many have begun to criticize Matthews’ game. He will most likely be matched up against Evan Turner who had 24 points against the Kings Thursday. It will be interesting to see how he guards Turner and if coach Stotts puts him there instead of Batum.
Keep The Top Spot: Portland will look to win its third game in a row and hold on to the top spot in the Western Conference. With Oklahoma City and San Antonio facing tough opponents, the Blazers might be able to distance themselves from the other top teams. The Thunder play in Minnesota against the Timberwolves as the Spurs host the Clippers. If the Trail Blazers take care of business against the Sixers, they will continue their ride as the biggest surprise team in the NBA.