Your Pregame Moment of Zen
Jarrett Jack to Brandon Roy.
The Blazer Outlook
It's an 82 game season. But as we're learning by the week, maybe, just maybe, the Western Conference isn't as stacked as we once believed. Does anyone think the Suns and their NBA-worst defense are for real? How about Golden State with their below average offense and fourth worst in the league defense? Or Houston with whatever they've got going on? It's still likely that at least one of these teams- Phoenix or Memphis would be my two bets- can right the ship a little bit. We're not even out of November yet. But it's also likely that the battle for eighth place will be a lot less fiery than anticipated.
The Blazers are a team that have managed to stay above the fold thus far, despite various injuries and ailments. Word on the street is that Brandon Roy will return to the lineup tonight, and Joel Przybilla may also make his comeback. It's unclear how effective Roy will be, but even in 11 hobbled games this year, he definitely outperformed Marco Belinelli. If he does indeed start, we need to consistently attack him on the defensive end.
- Even if the conference is weaker than expected from the 6-10 spots, the top teams still look sharp. New Orleans dropped to 3rd with back-to-back losses to the Clips and Jazz. If we don't correct course tonight, the free fall could continue with upcoming games against the 1st place Spurs and the rising Thunder.
- At what point do we start wondering about Chris Paul's endurance? That's four straight games now where he's failed to show up in the 2nd half/4th quarter. Perhaps he would have played a larger role in the fourth quarter against the Jazz if the game had been tighter, but that's neither here nor there. He's simply not closing games the way Chris Paul closes games. Even for an 11-3 team, that's unsettling.
- That said, Chris Paul still leads the league in PER and WS/48. Defensively, he's doing a terrific job of on the ball defense (getting a large fraction of his steals by simply swiping the ball from his man instead of playing passing lanes). Chris Paul leads the NBA in steal percentage (4.7%) and is also doing a tremendous job on the glass- leading all point guards in defensive rebounding percentage. Despite off-games and off-stretches this year, there's no doubt in my mind that Chris Paul has been the best player in the game.
- If Portland is going to come anywhere close to matching preseason expectations, LaMarcus Aldridge is the man that needs to step his game up. Through 14 games, he's posting career lows in true shooting, percentages from the field, turnover rate, defensive rebound rate, and overall offensive efficiency. Rough. Let's hope he doesn't turn things around against us (as Utah did with their rebounding struggles).
- Portland doesn't get to the line often. If we want a good way to give this game away, we keep up the silly fouls we committed against the Jazz. Portland's biggest strength defensively is their ability to force turnovers- that means Ariza and Belinelli need to be especially careful with their dribble.
- Statistically, Emeka Okafor is now performing worse in 2010-2011 than he did through 2009-2010. There's no question that his defensive game has been massively improved, but he did get torched by Al Jefferson the other night.
- I don't know why it took me so long to realize this... but Trevor Ariza has been a horrendous foul shooter throughout his career. I always assumed it was something that would even out long term (he's shooting 64% FTs this year), but he's actually a career 66% foul shooter. I believe that qualifies as Punch to the Gut #17, via Mr. Ariza. What's the point of a slasher who can't finish well near the rim and can't make his free throws? It's just yet another flaw we need to add to the already enraging "29% three point shooter taking 5 threes a night" syndrome. I still enjoy his defense, but his negative offensive contributions are starting to wear me thin.
- Opposite Ariza is one of my favorite players in the league- the 38% 3 point shooting, 81% free throwing, equally-if-not-more-capably defending Nicolas Batum. Sigh.
- Random prediction for tonight: Dallas is going to crush San Antonio.
- Go Hornets.