Game 41 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Jersey Nets


Blazers: 20-20

Nets: 10-29

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’2’’, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5’’, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’9’’, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11’’, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11’’, UMass)

Projected New Jersey Starting Lineup: PG Devin Harris (#34, 6’3″, Wisconsin), SG Stephen Graham (#26, 6’6″, Oklahoma State), SF Travis Outlaw (#21, 6’9″, Starkville High School), PF Derrick Favors (#14, 6’10”, Georgia Tech), C Brook Lopez (#11, 7’0″, Stanford)

One thing is certain: when the Trail Blazers host the New Jersey Nets tonight, Carmelo Anthony will not be part of Nate McMillan’s game plan. He may be a Net within the week, and depending on whom you believe in the media, Portland might even get involved in the deal in some capacity (I have my doubts, but it keeps coming up). But as of tonight, the Nets come to Portland as they are. And it’s not pretty.

About the best thing you can say about the Nets is that they’re not as bad as they were last year, but they’re still not a good team by any stretch of the imagination. At the beginning of the season, Brook Lopez seemed poised to make the leap into the Joakim Noah/Al Horford tier of centers, but he’s regressed in his third year in both scoring and rebounding. 2010 No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors was recently inserted into the starting lineup at power forward in place of Kris Humphries, and while Favors is an athletic freak who’s shown flashes brilliance, he’s still very much finding his role on the Nets. Devin Harris, long thought to be a trade target for the Blazers, is having another solid, not quite All Star-caliber year. These three players are the best things the Nets have going for them, and that is decidedly not good enough.

Travis Outlaw should get a warm reception in Portland, but he’s not having a terrific shooting year. Ditto Jordan Farmar. And those are their two biggest shooting threats. Kris Humphries is enjoying a solid rebounding year that may or may not be attributable to Kim Kardashian. Beyond that, there really isn’t much. Sasha Vujacic fell out of the Lakers’ rotation this year and hasn’t done much since his trade to the Nets, and shooter Anthony Morrow is still a week or two away from returning.

The Nets beat the Blazers at home in late November, during a stretch of season that most Portland fans like to pretend never happened–the disastrous four-game road trip that saw the Blazers blow  leads to not only the Nets but also such basketball royalty as the Sixers and Wizards. Even though Portland has lost three in a row and fallen back to .500, their season is still in decidedly better shape than it was then, for all the reasons we’ve been over countless times. LaMarcus Aldridge is now a double-double machine, and Marcus Camby should be able to take advantage of Lopez’s rebounding decline to give Portland an edge on the glass. Wesley Matthews shot the ball extremely well last night in Phoenix, and the Nets’ defense is nothing to write home about, to put it kindly. The Blazers don’t have to play their best tonight–as long as they don’t play badly, they should be able to beat New Jersey. You’d like them to make it to the halfway point of the season with a winning record, if just barely.