Blazers Week Ahead: March 26-31
Monday, March 26, 2012
This Week’s Matchups
THUNDER AT BLAZERS
7 p.m. Tuesday at Rose Garden (Channel 8)
Key match-up: Nic Batum vs. Kevin Durant
The NBA’s second-leading scorer leads the top team in the Western Conference back into Portland after the infamous “goaltending” game. Durant has lauded Batum’s defensive ability before, commenting on how the Frenchman’s length poses problems, but for a scorer as dynamic as KD, not too many “problems” really exist on the basketball court.
To win: The Blazers have to somehow lure Russell Westbrook into taking tough shots. As explosive and talented as Westbrook is, he is not a pass-first point guard, and if he gets stubborn and inaccurate, the Blazers may have a chance.
HORNETS AT BLAZERS
7 p.m. Thursday at Rose Garden (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key matchup: Jarrett Jack vs. Raymond Felton
Felton has admitted that his season has been disappointing, and few would disagree. But the Blazers point guard has picked it up slightly in the second half and needs to play well if Portland wants to even think about the postseason. Jack, the former Portland guard, is averaging 15.6 points per game.
To win: You really never know which Blazer team is going to come out, and that inconsistency has been their downfall this year. But what Portland has shown the ability to do is blow out lower echelon teams, New Orleans, Cleveland and Charlotte serving as examples. As long as the Blazers forget they are playing the Hornets and recognize them as a legitimate NBA team, they should be fine.
BLAZERS AT CLIPPERS
7:30 p.m. Friday at Staples Center (ESPN cable Channel 35, and CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Blake Griffin
The All-Star teammates will meet up again for bragging rights at the power forward position. The stats are similar, with Griffin averaging 20.9 points and 10.8 rebounds and Aldridge putting up 21.4 and eight rebounds. Griffin is clearly the more athletic player, but Aldridge’s soft touch (he is shooting better than 25 percent better than Griffin from the foul line) makes him just as dangerous.
To win: Staples center is a tough play for Portland to play regardless of the opponent. The Clippers haven’t been up to title-contender standards of late, but their talent says that they should be. Portland can’t afford costly turnovers, and as Coach Kaleb Canales says “it starts with defense.”
TIMBERWOLVES AT BLAZERS
7 p.m. Sunday at Rose Garden (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Kevin Love
Love had a career night the last time he was in the Rose Garden, scoring 42 points and 10 rebounds while establishing his dominance over Aldridge. LaMarcus used to get the better of his new-found rival, but right now, Kevin clearly owns the crown.
To win: Portland has to keep Love off the boards — no easy task, obviously — while shutting down the perimeter players that tend to benefit from the extra defense attention Love commands.