Whenever someone talks about Portland, they start with LaMarcus Aldridge. He scores above the magical 20ppg plateau, ergo, he's a star. He's a dominant big man. He's the guy you need to key on to stop. The funny thing about LMA (or MLA, if you're a fan of The League) is he really isn't that good. The guy averages 8.2 long twos per game, his FTA/FGA rate is terrible. The key to stopping Aldridge is to just let him do what he wants to do: shoot long twos.
Stopping this team isn't going to be about stopping Aldridge, it's going to be about keeping Lillard out of the lane, covering up Batum, Lillard and Wes Matthews beyond the three point line, and keeping JJ Hickson away from the rim. Encourage Aldridge to take those jumpers he loves so much. Heck, cheat off him. Every possession that ends with an Aldridge long two is a win, and if he hits a couple early, that's perfect. He'll keep shooting them all night while his efficiency continually drops.
Thad needs to aggressively double every screen. Let them go with the pick-and-pop. Don't use the other big to rotate to Aldridge, stay at home on Hickson, and dare LMA to beat you. That's my strategy.
On the offensive end, it starts and ends with Jrue. Thad is pretty reliable. It's the other guys you have to worry about. Wright needs to take the open threes he gets, and he needs to hit a decent percentage (not sure if Richardson will rejoin the starting lineup tonight, or not). Turner...man, Turner has had two just terrible games in a row. Portland's best perimeter defender is Batum, but they've used him situationally in the past. Meaning, if he's not needed to guard the opposing three, sometimes he'll take the most important matchup. If Batum is on Jrue, Turner might have a size mismatch he can take advantage of. If Batum is on Turner, I'm afraid a third consecutive terrible game might be coming. Hawes followed up probably his best game of the season against Memphis with a complete dud last night in Oakland. They need more from him.
One thing I loved about last night's game was Lavoy Allen's play in the fourth quarter. His toughness really lifted the team up when he was out there with Kwame. In fact, I think Collins killed any hope of completing the comeback when he pulled Lavoy and left Kwame in late in the fourth. I'd love to see Lavoy wake up a bit and give them decent production with hustle.
It's tough to guess what we're going to see from this team in any game. They're more than capable of winning the game. Portland isn't good (13th in OFR, 24th in DFR), but neither are the Sixers, really. They're capable of playing great defense, but it's there only once in a while. They're capable of scoring, but it's a rarity. If you could count on hustle and aggression on the offensive end, they'd be more reliable, but those things are fleeting as well. I don't know what to expect, but I know what they need. Another win before this road trip gets tougher.
The tip is at 10pm. This is your game thread. I'll be here throughout, primed for another good matchup at PG and hopefully another win. Join me if you're snowed in on this glorious Saturday night.