Blazers Week Ahead: March 12-18
Monday, March 12, 2012
This Week’s Matchups
BLAZERS AT PACERS
4 p.m. Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: Roy Hibbert vs. Marcus Camby
The Pacers have established themselves as a legitimate playoff team who could very well advance to the second round. Much of that is a byproduct of Hibbert, the 7-foot-2 center averaging 12.9 points and 9.4 rebounds. Camby may not have the girth to match-up with Hibbert physically, but he does have the length and the veteran savvy that has made him one of the best defensive players of his generation.
To win: Portland obviously needs to up the intensity given the way this road trip has gone. Could the Blazers be worse at 0-3? Sure. But one win over Washington is hardly cause for celebration. This will be a good test to see whether Portland is serious about turning its season around.
BLAZERS AT KNICKS
4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: Amare Stoudemire vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
The Knicks are on a five-game skid as Linsanity has faded significantly since the All-Star break. The team just hasn’t looked good since Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup, but despite having a down year statistically, Stoudemire remains the team’s most physically imposing player. Aldridge has not been great in the second half of the season, but perhaps this match-up will re-ignite him for the remainder of the season.
To win: Even though they’re struggling, the Knicks are still a loaded team than can beat anyone on a given night, and obviously the Blazers are no exception. The key here is to slow New York’s high-paced offense and force them to play more one-on-one ball.
BLAZERS AT BULLS
5 p.m. Friday at United Center, Chicago (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: Nic Batum vs. Luol Deng
Deng has emerged as a defensive stopper with a scoring ability that vaulted him to All-Star status. Batum, meanwhile, has looked All-Starish since taking over as the Blazers starting shooting guard. Derrick Rose, obviously, is the player that makes the Bulls go, but players like Deng have helped sustain Chicago as one of the NBA’s elite.
To win: The Blazers will need a big shooting night while finding a way to slow down Rose — who may just be the league’s most athletic player. Currently, the Bulls have the best record in basketball after securing the No. 1 seed in the East last year. That doesn’t happen by accident.
BLAZERS AT THUNDER
6:30 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City (Channel 8 and ESPN)
Key match-up: Gerald Wallace vs. Kevin Durant
LeBron James may be the consensus MVP leader right now, but Durant is likely in second place. The offensive sensation is putting up 27.9 points per game while shooting .502 from the field — the best percentage of his career. The Blazers will throw multiple players at him, but Wallace’s athleticism and strength may offer the team’s best chance at slowing Durant down.
To win: Well, one game earlier, the Blazers will have played the top team in the East, and now have the top team in the West with Oklahoma City. Given their road struggles and likely fatigue at this point in the trip, chances aren’t good for Portland. But if it can force Russell Westbrook into taking bad shots, it’s always possible if Durant has a slow shooting night.