BY SAM LACHOW
|Portland Trail Blazers|
|6-4||Last 10 Games||5-5|
|103.0||Points scored per 100 possessions||108.6|
|104.6||Points allowed per 100 possessions||105.3|
|97.9||Possessions per game||98.0|
|45.1%||Field goal percentage||45.0%|
|Joe Johnson (15.2)||Top Scorer||LaMarcus Aldridge (23.9)|
Projected starting lineup: Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Dorrell Wright, Robin Lopez
Terry Stotts’ Portland Trail Blazers has been the surprise team of the 2013-2014 season. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge and last year’s rookie of the year Damian Lillard, the Trailblazers sit at 21 games over .500. The Blazers are the highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 107.8 points per game, and rank tops in the league in offensive efficiency. Even though Aldridge is out tonight, they’ve got a lot of weapons, including incredible support from Nicholas Batum and Wesley Matthews. The Blazers have proven to be one of the best 3-point shooting teams as well. More evidence towards the flawlessness of the Blazers offense can be found through the Blazers low turnover percentage.
The Blazers face a strange dilemma; they’re first in the NBA in rebounds per game, but have one of the worst defenses. The Blazers rank 27th in points allowed per game at 103.6. After Robin Lopez and Aldridge, they are brought down consistently by poor defensive performances from Lillard and Mo Williams.
Wesley Matthews is a key player to watch for tonight’s game. Matthews started off the season on fire; scoring over 55% from the field and over 50% from 3. Since then his play has gone down and the Trailblazers have begun to slump a bit. In his last 10 games, though Matthews is averaging 17 points per game, he is shooting just 38% from the field. The Nets struggle guarding the three-point line, and given the amount of attention that Lillard will attract through penetration, Matthews may get a lot of open looks.
The Nets have another new face tonight. Marcus Thornton, who the team traded for a week ago but missed two games because of food poisoning from bad lobster macaroni and cheese. (Ed. note: might I suggest Morgan’s BBQ, just south of Barclays Center and a partner of Elbow Room, to Thornton?) He’ll come off the bench for the first time. Jason Collins, who the team signed over the weekend, will wear his now-regular number of #98 after wearing #46 Sunday night. His #98 jersey was the top-selling jersey on NBA.com after debuting yesterday.
In the first and only meeting between these two, the Blazers won by 10. However, this game was a classic Nets game from the first half of the season. The Nets scored 40 points in the first quarter, led going into halftime, and fell apart in the third, scoring only 15 points. The Trailblazers are an incredible 21-7 at home this season, but given the Nets great play of late and Aldridge’s injury, this game should be closer.