Blazers Week Ahead: April 16-21

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

This Week’s Matchups

BLAZERS AT SUNS

7 p.m. Monday at U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix (CSN, cable channel 37)

Key matchup: Steve Nash against

That was not a typo. When it comes to stopping one of the greatest offensive point guards ever — a point guard who, at 38, is no less efficient than he was at 28, you don’t single out one player on the opposition. The fact that Nash is just 0.7 assists a game behind Rajon Rondo for tops in the league is remarkable given his team’s lack of perimeter shooting, and there is just no telling what he is going to do next.

To win: Stopping Nash would help. But the reality is that the Blazers “winning” at this point would be giving guys who need experience as much as they can possibly give. This may mean more minutes for Luke Babbitt and Nolan Smith — guys who are going to be around next year and need that extra development.

JAZZ AT BLAZERS

7 p.m. Wednesday at Rose Garden (Channel 8)

Key match-up: Utah against fans

This is it, Blazer fans. Your last chance to chant for a Chalupa. Your last opportunity to complete P.A. announcer Mark Mason’s sentence when he says “the Rose Garden is ... OUR HOUSE!” The final home game of the season will come against the Jazz, and given how Utah slipped past Portland in the two team’s last outing, a touch of vengeance might be just what the crowd needs to go home feeling semi-satisfied.

To win: The Blazers will need to slow down Paul Millsap, the power forward who torched Portland in the clutch last game while capitalizing on two late Raymond Felton turnovers. This would also be an opportunity for Felton to part ways with Portland without leaving the worst possible taste in mouths of the fans. Last time Utah was in the building, there were attendees saying that they wouldn’t renew their tickets if he came back. Felton likely won’t be back, but maybe he could temper the future boos when he returns for another team? No?

BLAZERS AT GRIZZLIES

5 p.m. Saturday at FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn. (CSN, cable Ch. 37)

Key match-up: Marc Gasol against J.J. Hickson

Gasol has emerged as an All-Star forward who many think has surpassed his brother. Hickson has emerged as a player put on waivers who found a system in which he can flourish. Portland is not going to make the postseason, but perhaps they can play spoiler and affect Memphis’ playoff positioning. The Grizzlies, after all, are a team some are saying can sneak into the Finals, but that would be awfully difficult if they started off without home-court advantage.

To win: Like, an actual win? Or are we talking moral here? OK, OK — any team in the NBA can beat another on a given night. But given what Memphis is playing for, and what Portland is not playing for, it is hard to see the Grizzlies giving up this one on their home court. However, we did see Portland take down Dallas in Texas, so you really never know.