“The Roses are out Timmy, not the Daisies”
With the pathetic, arguments for league contraction, Cavaliers and Wizards in the rearview, it’s time for the Blazers to face front—there’s a semi truck of playoff-bound teams barreling straight towards them.
Five of Portland’s next six games come against the top four seeds in the Western Conference. And if the Blazers hope to snatch the fifth seed from the scorching-hot Denver Nuggets, they must channel their inner Butler Bulldog and win some games as an underdog. To be precise, the upcoming schedule is as follows: at home versus the Spurs, at the Thunder, at the Spurs, at the Hornets and then back home to face the Thunder and Mavs. Yikes.
Well, as they say, just take it one game at a time. The gauntlet begins at home, and perhaps the Blazers can build some momentum against the injury-ridden. Tim Duncan will miss his second game in a row, the result of left ankle sprain. Without Duncan on Wednesday, the Spurs fell to the Nuggets in Denver 115-112, bringing spurs league-best record to 57-14.
One of those 14 losses? Against the Blazers in Portland—where the Blazers. If the Blazers are to make it happen a second time they will have to start with getting Lamarcus Aldridge involved early and often. I know, not a new concept, but the Blazers offense works best going through Aldridge and lessing their need for jacked up jump shots to roll in. After all, in their last victory over the Spurs, Aldridge scored a career high 40.
With Duncan out, Aldridge should be able to have a field day going against 6’7” Dejuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter. (Editor’s note: standing in front of Dejuan Blair at All-Star Weekend I was taken aback by his size. He’s bigger than the stats would suggest—supremely wide, thick and muscular.
Depending on how the Spurs guard the other Blazer forwards, Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum, either one or both players will need to continue their recent style of play to keep the pressure on the Spurs. Wallace is coming of his best scoring output as a Blazer (28) and Nicolas Batum is riding back-to-back 20-point games, a feat the young forward has accomplished only once before.
Of course, the Blazers have their hands full defending Ginobli, Parker and three point shooter “X”, but if the Blazers want to start off the final push before the playoffs right, they will have to play with inspiration.
And aside from the fight for seeding, games against the Spurs, Mavericks and Thunder are incredibly important, as the Blazers could meet any of them in the first round. Establishing a tone coming into the playoffs with a few regular season wins can go a long way.
TV: KGW Channel 8
VEGAS LINE: Portland -1