The road trip begins
The Portland Trail Blazers are set to take their first trip to the East Coast this Sunday, and it will begin a seven-game stint where the team will be away from the Rose Garden.
Matchup: Portland (6-6) @ Brooklyn Nets (7-4)
Venue: Barclays Center
Time: 12:00 PM PT
Date: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012
The Brooklyn Nets have undergone a load of transitions since last season, and they’ll provide a big test for the Trail Blazers.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
At its most fundamental level, this contest is going to come down to the Blazers’ offense versus the Nets’ defense. The Blazers are 12th in the league in points per game (99.5) and 29th in the league in points allowed (102.3), while the Nets are 20th in the league in points per game (95.4) and 3rd in points allowed (92.1).
The battle in the paint will be a big focus in this one. Brooklyn is a top-10 team when it comes to points scored down low, while the Blazers are one of the worst at defending that particular category. Brook Lopez is the team’s leading scorer at 19.4 points per contest, so Portland must move quickly on defense in order to double-team the big man without leaving open shooters.
Portland hasn’t been as up-tempo of a team as we thought they would be, but it’s Brooklyn that plays at the slowest pace in the entire NBA. They have the talent to get out and run, but the influence of Joe Johnson, and the return of Brook Lopez, have created for isolation and post-up situations that give them much more of a slow-down style than the Blazers have run thus far.
What to Watch: Portland
The Trail Blazers are coming off a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves in which they allowed just 41 percent shooting from the field, and just 16.7 percent shooting from the three-point line. A similar performance is going to be needed against Brooklyn, as points may be tough to come by against one of the league’s best defenses.
The Nets’ shoot the 11th-best field-goal percentage in the NBA, and the Trail Blazers are dead last in field-goal percentage allowed. Portland must play aggressively on the defensive side of the floor, and they cannot allow them to shoot better than 50 percent on the game.
Brooklyn is a good defensive team, so if they hold Portland below their season average, the Blazers are going to be in need of stops all game long.
What to Watch: Brooklyn
Brooklyn hasn’t been a good three-point shooting team this season, but they’ve been very good at defending the deep ball, as they’ve allowed just 33.7 percent from behind the arc on the year.
The Trail Blazers have been one of the better three-point shooting teams in the NBA this year, so it’s going to be crucial for the Nets that they stop Portland from getting open looks in transition. Getting back on defense is important in any game, but it’s especially crucial against a team that looks to score early.
If Brooklyn can stop Portland from taking advantage in the three-point game, the Blazers will have a hard time putting points on the board Sunday afternoon.
Brook Lopez may be three inches taller than J.J. Hickson, but the Blazers’ center has a good chance of outworking the Nets’ big man in their upcoming matchup.
J.J. Hickson has shown this season that height means nothing when you have an endless supply of energy. He’s boxed out well this year and he’s shown that he can chase down loose balls, which is something that the 7’0” Lopez has yet to prove he can do.
Damian Lillard versus Deron Williams is going to be another fun battle to watch at the point guard position, but the production in the paint could help decide this game one way or the other.
The Trail Blazers are going to face a big test Sunday afternoon, and unless they can get out and score against a tough defense, it could be a rough start to a long road trip.