Blazers/Bobcats Pre-Thoughts


On the surface tonight’s game should be the last leg of the Blazers ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ Tour 09 as the scheduling gods have giving us a reprieve of late. It’s the Bobcats at home, it’s the game that you skip to watch Lost or whatever TV show is hip or the game that your mom gave away the tickets to your teacher or neighbor. Or the game you skip to go on a date or play video games. That’s on the surface. We have to look beyond the surface people. I think we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that tonight’s game against the Bobcats has all of the feelings of a….*cue ominous music* trap game.

(Yeah, I said it. More like a mouse trap than a bear trap but still a trap indeed. Not a Young Jeezy trap though…no, no, no.)

Of the three “softies” that we’ve played, this is obviously going to be the toughest of the three. This isn’t the type of game where Portland can just show up and hope to win because the Bobcats are scrappy. They already surprised us once and can do it again. In my humble opinion, there are two ways you can feel about tonight’s game. On one hand you can say ‘SJ, you must be smoking rocks with Tyrone Biggums because there is no way we should be losing to the Bobcats at home in late January.’ On the other hand you can say ‘The Bobcats just beat us 11 days ago, have won 6 of 8 and just beat the Lakers in LA. I haven’t been this scared since I watched 27 Dresses. The third time.’

As much respect as I have for the Bobcats, Larry Brown and MJ…we really should not be losing to them at home at this point in the season. Yes I know they have won 6 of their last 8. Yes I know they just beat the Lakers in double overtime. Yes I know they just beat us 11 days ago. Yes I know they play hard…. But just like the past two games this is one of those games that Portland has to win. To make the playoffs out West it is imperative that you take care of business at home. We can’t afford to drop a game to the Bobcats, we only get to see them once a year. Especially considering the competition gets much stiffer againt playoff level competition soon…yeah…this should be a gimme.

That being said…There has to be a respect for the Bobcats. Unlike Washington and the Clippers, this is a team that can beat you. Should we beat them? Yes. We should have won in Charlotte had B-Roy not missed 7 free throws and Gerald Wallace not gone absolutely bonkers. But we all have to admit that the Bobcats are playing some pretty doggone good basketball. Tip your hat to them. They’ve beaten some of the top teams in the league. Boston, New Orleans and the Lakers on the road. You get respect for doing things like that. Matter of fact behind that 19-26 record is a team that is only 1.5 games out of the playoffs right now. Stop laughing. Their starting 5 is really developing a chemistry together and ever since Raja Bell came back from injury it seems as if the wheels have begun to turn. They don’t really have any ‘home run’ hitters but they have guys who can do damage. Felton, Wallace, Diaw, Bell and Okafor may not scream danger but they do scream balance. Out of those 5, more times than not you’re going to see 4 of them score in double figures with them taking turns on who goes off. Don’t believe me? Check the box scores. After those 5 is a mish-mash of guys that work hard and make Larry Brown feel funny inside. DeSagana Diop, Juwan Howard, Sean Singletery and Shannon Brown. Scrappy, scrappy, scrappier. And some guy with a mustache and weird looking hair cut who a certain blogger thought should have been the Blazers pick instead of LaMarcus Aldridge. Things you know they will do. They will be prepared, they will play hard, they will D up and they will be patient. It’s the Larry Brown way.

(I’m sorry LMA but man Adam Morrison was the man. No one can tell me he wasn’t that year. No one. Don’t make me live blog one of those old games.)

Keys to success:

  • Make your free throws this time #7. But seriously.
  • Attack from the start. This is the second leg of a back-to-back for the Bobcats and their 3rd game in 4 days. Energy and effort will be just as important as anything tonight. But it has to be a sustained effort, not peaks and valleys. It will be hard to deliever a knockout blow early but not impossible. Send a positive message in the first quarter I beg of you for once.
  • Box out. The Bobcats are at the bottom of the league when it comes to rebounding yet in Charlotte we allowed them to out-rebound us 52-43 which including 12 offensive rebounds. We’ve got to keep Okafor and Wallace off of the offensive glass tonight, no second shots.
  • Contain Gerald Wallace. Is he going for 31 again? I doubt it. But let’s make sure of it. He’s an absolute physical beast. He can post you up, he can slash, he can bang you and he can dunk all over you. The one thing he can’t really do? Shoot. Keep him in front and make him shoot. I’ll take him going off with contested jumpers over dunks, layups and free throws. Wallace is the one guy who can for sure explode for a crazy game let’s not allow it to happen twice. Also contain Raymond Felton’s dribble penetration, the Bobcats morph into a completely different beast when he is able to penetrate and get into the paint. Staring a hole right through you Sergio.
  • Keep them out of the paint. Like I said with Felton but this goes to the whole team. This isn’t a very good perimeter shooting team. Besides Raja Bell, not a lot of consistency behind the arc. And I’m sure Nate would live with Felton, Wallace and Diaw shooting jumpers all night. But if Okafor can get down low and operate with a slasher like Wallace, shooter like Bell and all-around guy like Diaw you see how things could get Avril Lavigne type complicated.
  • Demolish in the battle of the benches. Brown gets the most out of his bench but the Blazers have much superior talent. If their bench guys score it’s just an added bonus. We on the battle of the benches in Charlotte and lost so I can’t make a direct correlation. But if we hold Juwan Howard and Sean Singletary scoreless we should have a much better chance than if they are chipping in 8 and 4.
  • Win the battle of the Frenchies. I’m way rusty on my French so nothing trop speciale pour ce match de basket mais esperez juste que Batum mange son crepes avec le Nutella. And yes I just said let’s hope Batum eats his crepes with Nutella today. Gotta love stereotypes.
  • Make open shots. The Bobcats will rotate over defensively which should lead to some pretty open looks. It’s the type of game where having Steve Blake would be lovely. Someone is going to have to step up and knock down shots. In Charlotte, we shot a DMX Ruff Riders 5-17 from behind the arc. And yes I just got a Ruff Riders reference into a game preview.

(Stop. Drop. Shut em’ down open up shop. Whoa. No. That’s how Ruff Riders roll. The funny part is imagine a high school girls team doing this but substituting their school’s name for Ruff Riders. Makes you mad right?)

In a lot of ways I feel like this is going to be a tight game. Just the matchup of the two teams. Portland prefers a slower pace with fewer possessions while the Bobcats love to grind-it-out. Look at their coach. Charlotte’s the type of team that isn’t just going to go away they’ll keep coming and coming until you deliever the knockout blow. It’s going to take some mature basketball to get the win tonight. Let’s see how we close out this stretch of winnable contests.