Pregame Open Thread: Portland Trailblazers vs. New Jersey Nets

On to the next one. Tonight, the Nets look to bounce back from an ugly 102-86 loss against Philadelphia, taking on the Portland Trailblazers at the Prudential Center. Portland has beaten New Jersey in their last five matchups, and the Nets hope to both end that streak and pick up just their second win in 7 games.

The Trailblazers recently regained Brandon Roy, who scored 27 points in his return in a loss Friday. Roy looked strong Friday, but his career has taken a tragic turn since it was discovered earlier this month that he has literally no meniscus left in his knee. Greg Oden, whose birth name actually is “Tragic Turn,” is out for the year after needing yet another reconstructive surgery on his knee. For the Nets, Troy Murphy is active tonight but appears to be suffering from a sore Avery Johnson. Terrence Williams will be away from the team given his move to D-League affiliate Springfield Armor.

Here are a few things to look out for in tonight’s game.

Finish them – please! Last night’s first key to the game was to execute late in the game, and sure enough, that became the difference-maker. The Nets & Sixers were tied 66-all after three quarters, and sure enough the Nets flipped their defense switch to “off” in the final twelve minutes. In that home stretch, the Nets allowed 36 points and turned a close game into a rout. The Nets have got to learn how to execute over the full 48 consistently if they’re going to win games. Philadelphia is a very beatable team, and the Nets just failed to take advantage. Hopefully Portland is a different story.

Get Brook going in the second half. Speaking of not closing. Last night, Brook Lopez had 10 free throws in the first quarter and none in the final three. This isn’t an outlier, it’s a trend. So far this season, Lopez is averaging 11 points per game in the first half and only 7.6 in the second & overtime. Last year, the difference between first & second was only 9.9 to 8.9. This is as much a long-term thing as it is an issue for tonight. He’s got to get going for more than just the first 24 if  the Nets are going to have a chance.

Step it up, Tranthony Morrlaw. These guys continue to be a conundrum – either one of them has a good game & the other has a poor one, or neither is particularly effective. I’m still waiting for the day that both of them show up to play – if those two are on, the Nets will become much more difficult to defeat.

For more coverage of the Portland Trailblazers, check out TrueHoop affiliate Portland Roundball Society.