A new start
The Portland Trail Blazers entered All-Star Weekend on one of their worst cold streaks of the season, but after a few days rest, a fresh start could be just what the team needs.
Matchup: Portland (25-28) vs. Phoenix Suns (17-36)
Venue: Rose Garden
Time: 7:00 PM PT
Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
It’s time to make a push at the playoffs, and it begins with Tuesday night with a contest against the Phoenix Suns.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Blazers and the Suns are both rebuilding, but Portland is the only one with hopes of making the postseason. The Blazers are currently three games behind the final spot out West, while Phoenix is sitting in last place for the entire conference.
While Phoenix used to be a great offensive team, their lack of scoring can no longer make up for their defensive deficiencies. The Blazers haven’t been great at defense either, but they have the more consistent offensive options, especially when it comes to LaMarcus Aldridge, to compensate.
This battle is going to be a contest between one struggling offense and one struggling defense. Over the last five games, Portland is giving up 109.8 points per game, while Phoenix’s offense is only putting up 84.5 pooints during its last four.
Both teams are currently in the midst of losing streaks, and both will look to use the All-Star break as a chance to rejuvinate.
What to Watch: Portland
When it comes to the Trail Blazers, this game is going to be all about energy. They have the players and the talent to take down Phoenix, but it’s going to depend on whether or not they’re ready to make a push at the 2013 postseason.
Portland entered the All-Star break with their worst loss of the season. A 36-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets was one of the low points of the year, but like they say, the night is always darkest before the dawn.
It’s time that Portland comes out with motivation. It’s questionable whether or not management wants to make a push for the playoffs or a push for the lottery, but the team needs to play with their heads up and their goals ahead of them for the rest of the year.
What to Watch: Phoenix
The Suns have been known as a three-point shooting team for a long time, but this year has shifted that notion 180 degrees. They’re now the second-worst team from deep range in the entire league, and they’re hardly a threat to score from the outside on a regular basis.
That being said, the first time these two teams met back in November, the Blazers allowed Phoenix to shoot better than 41 percent from behind the arc, and it proved to be a big difference maker in the 27-point loss.
The second time these teams played, Portland held the Suns to just 26.3 percent. The Blazers won that game at home, and they proved that taking away the long ball takes away the Suns’ biggest chance of winning.
Damian Lillard has helped carry this team up to this point, and that notion isn’t going to change with the All-Star break behind us.
When Damian Lillard plays well, so do the Blazers. When he struggles, the team has trouble keeping up offensively. The point guard will be challnged by Goran Dragic, and while his offense should get going, defense is going to be the priority.
On the other end, Dragic will be in a similar situation as Lillard. Defensively, he’ll have trouble keeping up. Offensively, he’ll have a field day if he can get in transition and score easy buckets.
When these two face off, the potential for scoring is there, and you should see both players make their marks Tuesday night.
The other matchup worth watching is the one in the post. J.J. Hickson and Marcin Gortat will fight for boards all game long, and whoever can provide more energy will give him team a major boost.
With two months left in the season, Portland needs to start winning winnable games. Phoenix is a team the Blazers can beat, and if they play with urgency, they should start the final stretch off with a bang.