The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off a somewhat successful road trip; one in which the team went 2-3 against four playoff opponents and one squad in ninth place out East.
Matchup: Portland (33-37) vs. Brooklyn Nets (41-29)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Date: Wednesday, Marc h27, 2013
Now, with the team back home, it’s do or die time with the playoffs on the line. The Brooklyn Nets won’t be an easy opponent, and they’ll help set up a brutal three-week stretch to close out the year.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
There’s really no other way to put this. Portland has to improve beyond a .500 team if it wants to make the playoffs. Brooklyn is already in, as the top 8 out East are all but decided, but it is in a tough battle for positioning with the New York Knicks.
These two teams are fighting for different things, but they’re both working hard to close out the year strong.
When the Nets and the Blazers met early in the year, the edge went to Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center. The home team dominated the fourth quarter by 13 points, and wouldn’t you know it, it won by exactly 13 points.
In that matchup, all anybody wanted to talk about was how Portland was coming to town as a warm-up for the cross-town rival Knicks. Now, the Blazers have established themselves as a threat to stronger opponents, and the Nets must be prepared for all four quarters against the home team and the raucous Rose Garden crowd.
What to Watch: Portland
We’ve heard a lot of late about how Portland isn’t going to quit with the season on the line. Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Adlrdige spoke in recent post-game interviews about continuing to fight, and Terry Stotts even commented recently about coaching toward the playoffs – not the lottery.
As much as this team has talked about continuing to fight, now is the time where we have to see it in action. Words only do so much, and it’s going to take clean execution and a ton of heart to get through a tough schedule.
Playing four quarters is the best way to make that happen. The Blazers can’t afford to lie down at the end of the game, and if they do, you can kiss the postseason goodbye sooner rather than later.
What to Watch: Brooklyn
Like the Trail Blazers, the Nets have become a difficult team to put your finger on. They’ve played well enough to seemingly earn home-court advantage in the postseason, yet they’re difficult to trust when they play down to lesser-quality opponents.
This group has one of the most talented starting five’s in the NBA, so the question on a nightly basis is whether or not they’ll live up to that reputation.
Defensively, this group is in the top 5 in points allowed on the season, yet it’s given up more than 100 points per contest over its last two. Whether its giving up points to Portland or not, where the Nets can really take advantage is in the post. The question, of course, becomes, will they want to?
Brook Lopez has the size to take any of Portland’s bigs inside, but his game has mostly found success thus far in the mid range. If Deron Williams and Joe Johnson can get him the ball anywhere inside 15 feet, the Blazers will have a tough time containing the seven-footer.
If for no other reason than emotional connections, the key matchup in this one belongs to the small forward position.
During Gerald Wallace’s time with the Blazers, he instantly became a fan favorite. His ruthless aggression, above-the-rim style and defensive presence were all appreciated by fans in Portland; not to mention, he literally brought the headband back to Rip City.
But the one thing that Wallace always had going against him was splitting time with Nicolas Batum. Portland couldn’t decide how it wanted to handle the situation, but when it came down to it, it did what it needed to do in building toward the future.
Now, the two forwards will face off on national television, and the Blazers will look to show that they made the right decision.
If this team is serious about making a push toward the playoffs, that push begins now. There are no more easy games on the schedule, and a win at home would inch them closer to the No. 8 spot.