Blazers Week Ahead: Feb. 14-18
Monday, February 13, 2012
Wizards at Blazers
7 p.m. Tuesday at Rose Garden (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: Raymond Felton vs. John Wall
Felton has been struggling all year, having arguably the worst season of his career. Wall, meanwhile, is finding his rhythm in his second year in the league -- using his lightning speed to average 16.4 points and 7.1 assists. Assuming Felton gets the minutes we’ve been seeing from him lately, he’s going to have to step up his defense to make up for his offensive shortcomings.
To win: The Blazers need to run their offense through LaMarcus Aldridge and establish consistency on that end of the floor. Overall, they are a deeper and more talented team than Washington, but if they start to become stagnant, things could get interesting.
Blazers at Warriors
7 p.m. Wednesday at Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif. (CSN cable Channel 37, ESPN)
Key match-up: Monta Ellis vs. Wesley Matthews/Nic Batum
Ellis is averaging 22.2 points per game this season and is less than a week removed from a 48-point performance vs. the Thunder. The Blazers will likely start Matthews on him, but we’ve been seeing Batum’s minutes grow throughout the season, and he has proven he is dangerous from beyond the 3-point line.
To win: Do something different than what they’ve been doing. Portland has dropped 12 of its past 13 games in Oakland and does not seem to have an answer for their woes. They would like to see themselves take some momentum from the Wizards game and carry it over to the Warriors, because the Blazers certainly don’t want to head into their final game of a back-to-back-to-back coming off a loss.
Clippers at Blazers
7:30 p.m. Thursday at Rose Garden (TNT)
Key match-up: Blake Griffin vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge will finally be able to say that he is going up against a fellow All-Star, but Griffin tends to prove he is worth the hype. Averaging 21.2 points and 11 rebounds, Griffin is among the best power forwards in the league. Add to the fact that he’s teamed up with Chris Paul, who will start alongside Griffin in the All-Star Game, and the Clips are suddenly one of the NBA’s most formidable teams.
To win: Aldridge has to play above expectations, and his supporting cast can’t disappear. There are plenty of Blazers capable of having a big game on any given night, but when they’re playing a title contender like the Clippers, more than one or two are going to have to step up.
The Blazers must also be wary of Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan, who is third in the league in blocks.
Hawks at Blazers
7 p.m. Saturday at Rose Garden (CSN cable channel 37)
Key match-up: Gerald Wallace vs. Josh Smith
Smith has proven himself one of the more explosive forwards in the NBA, and is currently averaging 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds and 2.07 blocks. Wallace, meanwhile, has shown incredible athletic prowess, but has struggled to find consistency. The Rose Garden loves to chant “Ger-ald Wall-ace!” whenever it gets a chance, and if he is able to either shut down or take it to Smith, he may be serenaded once again.
To win: Play a 48-minute game. It’s cliché, but the Hawks are one of the more balanced and underappreciated teams in the NBA. Joe Johnson is an All-Star this year and Jeff Teague is putting up a solid 12.9 points per game. It’s no surprise that Atlanta beat Portland the last time they squared off.