Blazers snap back to reality

Lockout season schedule grind rears its head

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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It turns out that the Trail Blazers made two stops on their last mini road trip. The first was Phoenix, the next was reality.

A dominating win Thursday over the Lakers seemed to back up Portland’s first-place standing in the West, but a 25-point loss the following night to the Suns proved that there is still plenty of work to be done.

The reason for the letdown was likely a combination of three factors: 1) The Blazers simply do not have the talent to consistently pummel through teams in the league, 2) the nature of basketball, or any sport really, suggests that teams will experience highs and and lows, 3) It was the second game of a back-to-back — and it was on the road.

Expect to see a lot of that this year.

Friday, the Bulls beat the Magic by 14 points, then lost to Atlanta by 15 on Saturday. This is the same Atlanta team that gave the Heat its only loss of the season, then later failed to beat a Miami squad sans LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

In other words, while basing prediction for the season based on one game is always precarious (the Bobcats consistently beat the Lakers during L.A.’s recent championship stretch), it is even more so this year.

That said, while there are no guarantees, relief appears to be on the way for the Blazers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will be in the Rose Garden Sunday night. Yes, the team is 4-3, but none of their wins came against clubs over .500 (Minnesota, Toronto and Charlotte.)

Additionally, the Cavs finished with the second-worst record in the league last season, lost an NBA record 26 consecutive games, and were demolished by 41 points the last time they came to Portland.

They do, however, feature the first pick of last year’s draft in guard Kyrie Irving. And while the 2011 draft class was believed to be weaker than most, Irving has performed well thus far by averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 rebounds a game. Antawn Jamison leads Cleveland in scoring (17.9 ppg) and is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game as well.

Sunday will be the first of a three-game home stand for Portland (5-2) before the team goes on the road for six games. The Clippers come to the Rose Garden Tuesday, followed by the Magic Wednesday.

LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Blazers with 21.9 points a game. Gerald Wallace is posting 14.9 points a contest, but was held to just one point against Phoenix after going for 31 the night before. Wesley Matthews is putting up 14.4 points a game, Jamal Crawford 14.0, and Raymond Felton is averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 assists.

Marcus Camby leads the team in rebounding, tallying 9.0 boards a game.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com