Tonight at 7:00 p.m. PDT, the Portland Trail Blazers (44-24) will host the Washington Wizards (35-32) for the second and final time this season. The Wizards won the last contest, February 3rd100-90, on a big game from guards John Wall (22 points) and Trevor Ariza (20 points), but the Trail Blazers have to be extra wary of the interior tonight. Not only is LaMarcus Aldridge unlikely to take the court as he recovers from a back injury, but the Wizards have signed power forward Drew Gooden for the remainder of the season to fill in for Nene Hilario (MCL sprain).
Normally, Mr. Gooden doesn’t register as much more than a blip on the NBA radar, but he has posted a higher PER than Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki this season (*cough* sample size). Gooden has averaged 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in games that he has played more than 15 minutes, and his playing time will only increase from here. Since joining the Wizards, he has averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes of play. I can’t offer you much more than stats right now, because, honestly, I haven’t gone out of my way to watch the 32 year old monument to mediocrity ride out his usefulness in the capital.
Regardless of Gooden’s newfound merit, the Trail Blazers will assuredly have their hands full with first time All-Star and #1 Eastern Conference point guard John Wall. Wall is notorious for his ability to exploit porous defenses, and Portland’s is barely clinging to Swiss cheese status. There is no way that Damian Lillard will be able to contain him on his own, so Nicolas Batum will have to step in to help. Fortunately, Lillard tends to play big when he is faced with a top-tier adversary at point. Maybe his offensive output will make up for his defensive shortcomings.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- LaMarcus Aldridge is doubtful to play with a back contusion.
- Joel Freeland may miss the rest of the regular season with a sprained MCL.
- Nene Hilario will miss 4-6 weeks with Joel Freeland disease.
Keys to the Game
So here’s what the Trail Blazers need to do in order to secure the win tonight: 1) For the love of all that is good in this world, keep turnovers to a minimum. 2) Stop Gooden from accelerating male pattern baldness in the greater Portland area. 3) Outscore the Washington backcourt to save face on “defense.” 4) Remind Marcin Gortat why they traded for Robin Lopez instead of him. 5) Write “You are the Portland Trail Blazers” on a piece of paper a la Dustin Hoffman in The Simpsons’ hay day, look at it, become inspired, stop playing like a team that needs overtime to beat the Milwaukee Bucks.