Playoffs no longer the goal
The Portland Trail Blazers have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, which means their goals have changed with the year winding down. Experience for the young guys will be a focus moving forward, and the home crowd must be on their side through any trials and tribulations.
Matchup: Portland (33-42) vs. Dallas Mavericks (37-39)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 6:00 PM PT
Date: Sunday, April 7, 2013
In the midst of a seven-game losing streak, Portland is desperate for wins. The organization is aiming for a spot in the lottery, but the team is hoping to give the fans something to cheer for.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
With the Dallas Mavericks coming to town, anything can happen. These two squads have established a history over the past few years, and the most recent drama took place back on Jan. 29.
In somewhat expected fashion, Portland stormed an impressive comeback to claim a 106-104 victory. The Blazers had been down by 20-plus in the third quarter, yet they put together an improbable to make it a game late.
A series of three-pointers—and a charge call (in Portland’s favor) that was late reviewed by the NBA—brought the game down to the final possession. LaMarcus Aldridge took the shot, and he nailed the game-winner as time expired.
That was back when this team was having fun, and that’s the kind of scene fans are craving with the year winding down.
What to Watch: Portland
There are two things you need to watch for when it comes to the Blazers, and neither can be tracked on a stat sheet.
Following Friday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, Wesley Matthews went off on a tangent regarding the team’s effort, heart and pride with the season nearly over. He said his plan was to have the same conversation with his teammates on Saturday, and whether or not it hit home will be clear Sunday evening.
The other thing to watch for is fundamental basketball. LaMarcus Aldridge mentioned that the team was guilty of “brain farts” in the loss to the Rockets. Those types of plays can be credited to youth and inexperience, so with the bench earning more and more minutes, simple mistakes need to be replaced with smart execution.
What to Watch: Dallas
Like the Trail Blazers, the Mavericks have experienced a number of tough losses throughout the 2012-13 season. They haven’t had nearly as many comeback victories, and now they find themselves fighting for an unlikely spot in the playoffs.
This team knows that time is running out, and they’re going to show it with their intensity in crunch time. If this game plays out the way many have between these two groups, it’s going to come down to the wire. That’s where Dallas has dropped a lot of contests, but that’s where their focus will be Sunday night.
If the postseason isn’t motivation enough, the team is trying to reach .500. That’s a goal that should motivate anybody, but it has been a very specific goal for a team looking to shave their hideous beards.
With the season winding down, LaMarcus Aldridge has to provide leadership every step of the way. Whether this team is his or Damian Lillard‘s down the road is up for debate, but the young point guard has shown some inconsistencies, and the big man has to be the one to rally the troops.
Against Dallas, Aldridge will be going up against Dirk Nowitzki. The two players love to play on the perimeter, but Aldridge is the one who has the edge down on the block.
On defense, Aldridge is a better shot-blocker and has the length to distrub any post moves that come his way. On offense, he can turn with either shoulder, and he has an array of moves both fading away and going straight up.
These two players are the leaders of their respective teams, and they’re the ones who get the looks late in close games.
Portland: OUT—Nicolas Batum
Dallas: DAY-TO-DAY—Elton Brand
Sunday night might be the closest thing the Blazers have to a winnable game the rest of the season. Portland has to take advantage, and if it does, the losing streak will finally come to an end.