If you've ever wondered why I'm not as high on the Portland Trailblazers as most of the mainstream media (who fawn all over them like a female intern in Bristol), it's probably because (a) the Sixers have won four of their past five against Portland and (b) I don't exactly see a roster that's going to defend out there. That being said, they're going to kill the Sixers tonight. Preview and game thread after the jump.
If you need an explanation, here goes. LaMarcus Aldridge is about as soft as you can get for a power forward. The guy loathes working in the paint, he doesn't rebound, doesn't defend. He takes 19-foot jumpers all night and makes tough faces at the camera. The Blazers tied up way too much money in the guy, as far as I'm concerned. The team lucked into a number one pick, took Oden, and now he's apparently made of glass. Not their fault, but still, it has to be taken into account when you're anointing a team as the team of the future. Brandon Roy is good, very good. All he needs is a wing to do the dirty work alongside him. Portland set themselves up to be major players in free agency both last summer and this upcoming summer. They blew last summer on Andre Miller, then blew this summer by extending Roy and Aldrdige early.
They have talented complementary players like Rudy Fernandez and Outlaw/Webster, but really no impact players outside of Roy, who dominates the ball, and Aldridge, who is S.O.F.T.
Portland is playing inspired basketball since losing Mr. Glass and Joel Przybilla, mostly thanks to the emergence of Jerryd Bayless, which brings us right back to Andre Miller. Miller has started only half of the games for Portland this season, he's averaging a career-low 27 minutes/game, he's shooting 40.6% from the field, and he just absolutely does not fit with this Portland roster. I've seen ESPN people saying how it was brilliant to sign Miller with their cap space, because now Miller is a great trade piece. This logic seems downright silly to me. The Sixers couldn't get anything for Miller last season as an expiring contract, in fact, Portland was the only team with even rumored interest. And in Philly, Miller was actually playing well. Now he looks old. He looks slow. He looks like a guy who may be a problem rather than a leader, but Portland is going to miraculously find a taker for his two-year contract with a buyout on the third-year? Signing Miller was a mistake, a mistake that's even more glaring now that Bayless appears to be taking advantage of his opportunity. Not to mention the fact that Steve Blake is a much better fit with Roy in the back court because he can spot up and stretch the floor.
Portland has a three-man rotation at the point in Blake, Bayless and Miller. They also have a two who demands having the ball in his hands most of the time. How Andre Miller was a fit under those circumstances is anyone's guess. But hey, Portland has stockpiled 2nd round picks for years, so they're front-office savants. No one seems to mention Portland blowing home court in the first round of the playoffs last season either.
Anyway, that's my rant for the night. Portland is a decent team, better than the Sixers (pre-Jordan) on paper, but probably pretty much even with them in the conference pecking order. Possible future mover in the West vs. possible future mover in the East.
As for tonight's game, I'm expecting a blow out. A laugher. You name it. Roy, Webster, Bayless and Blake are going to pick the Sixers to pieces from deep. An interesting matchup will be Thad vs. Aldridge, let's call it, "I'm softer than you are." I'd absolutely love to see Jrue Holiday guarding Andre Miller, but we probably won't get the opportunity because all signs point to tonight being the debut of the vaunted Iverson/Lou Williams back court. Actually, there are two defensive matchups I'd love to see involving Jrue, and honestly, he's the only guard who has a prayer of keeping Bayless out of the lane and keeping his feet in the face of Miller's pump fakes.
Iguodala will probably match up with Roy. Which means Iverson on Miller and probably Lou on Martell Webster. Roy will probably wind up checking either Iverson or Lou on the other end. Brand could do work against a 50-year-old Juwon Howard on the blocks, but he won't get the ball in a position to. Speights could abuse Howard, but he's hurt and ineffective at the moment, though no one seems willing to admit it.
Portland plays at snail's pace, I fully expect their offensive patience to overwhelm the Sixers needless rotations. It's going to rain threes, and we're most likely looking at 7-23 in the first 30 games of the season.
Key to The Game: I'd say give Aldridge those 20-foot jumpers on the pick and pop he runs with Roy. He absolutely loves to shoot them (7.7 attempts from between 10-23 feet), and really doesn't convert on them all that well (40%). Making him hit those shots, even if he's open, is a good defensive philosophy when you consider the alternatives (Roy driving to the hoop where he's a 61% finisher, or open threes from guys shooting near 40%).
If ___________ the Sixers won't lose by 20: Elton Brand goes off in his limited minutes. 20/10/3 blocks.
This is your game thread. The tip is at 10:00pm, so grab some coffee and join me. I'll be here throughout.
UPDATE: Both Iverson and Willie are listed as probably. Willie apparently tweaked his ankle the other night.