Pinwheel Empire is a social Blazers site which aims to bring fans together in a unique and new community. It's run by a bunch of volunteer gerbils all over the world. We're new, trying to cross the Rubicon and do something different – it's an evolving process with a lot of small victories and defeats.
Team Records: Portland (20-17) at Denver (23-16)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Denver -9
Refs: Joe Crawford, Eric Lewis, JT Orr
The Skinny: The Blazers look to bounce back from two straight losses in one of the hardest places to win on the road, Denver. Denver is a league-best 14-2 at home (and only 9-14 on the road) and the thin air of the Mile High City always makes it a tough place for anyone to win. Denver comes into this game on a five-game wining streak, largely coming against teams below .500.
Last Time They Met: Portland beat Denver in a strange game as it held Denver to only one basket outside the paint all game (and that came in the final minute) as Denver broke Portland’s week old record for most 3s attempted without a make.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 2nd season) – 12.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, .8 APG
SF: Danilo Gallinari (Italy, 5th season) – 16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.5 APG
C: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, 5th season) – 7.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Andre Iguodala (Arizona, 9th season) – 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.5 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 4th season) – 14.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.8 APG
Player to Watch: Ty Lawson (pictured at right) – In a 2009 draft loaded with quality point guards, Lawson was perhaps the best steal of the draft. The sixth point guard selected (in a first round that featured ten point guards), Lawson has proven to be every bit the player many thought he was at North Carolina. A lightning fast guard with the ability to both slash to the hoop and hit the outside shot, Lawson can be devastatingly effective on the offensive end. He is a decent defender but standing only 5’-11” can sometimes be overwhelmed by bigger players. Still, he appears to be a budding star and one that we should not be surprised to see in the all-star game a few times before his career is done.
Did You Know?: Denver has won 23 straight home games when they scored 100 points.
Song of the Day: “Rocky Mountain Way” by Joe Walsh-Just a fun little song about Colorado to get us back into the groove for this one. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Achillies)
Re-Evaluating Denver: Who Takes the Last Shot?
One of the problems that teams that lack a true star is that they often struggle when they decide who should take the last shot. In Denver’s case it has often been split among Lawson, Andre Miller and Iguodala. While this can be a strength, because you don’t know whom to pay the most attention to, it can also be a problem since, at times, you need a go to scorer late in games. Yet, on a team that relies so heavily on team play and passing, perhaps this is the best way for the Nuggets. Better to keep your opponent guessing perhaps than always go to the same player every time in the clutch.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Denver’s fast break points. Denver loves to run out on the break and Portland has had a hard time stopping that at times this year. If they can limit Denver to a half-court offense, they will stand a strong chance of winning.
Denver wins if: They score at least 100 points. Denver is the sort of team that can simply outscore you. If the Nuggets hit the century mark, that will almost certainly be enough to secure Denver’s sixth straight win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Oklahoma City (28-8) at Portland (20-16)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: OKC -5
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, Brian Forte, Leroy Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to bounce back from a loss in Golden State Friday night as they take on the West leading Thunder in OKC’s first visit to Portland this season. The loss Friday was only Portland’s second of the calendar year. OKC comes into this game fresh off a relatively easy win over the hapless Lakers and have won four of their last five, dropping only a shocker to the Wizards (which Blazers fans can certainly relate to).
Last time they met: OKC took control early and didn’t look back, cruising to a 14-point win in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 4th season) – 14.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, .4 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 6th season) – 28.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.3 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 10th season) – 4.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.4 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 7th season) – 7.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 5th season) – 21.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 8.5 APG
Player to Watch: Kendrick Perkins (pictured at right) – Perkins is not, and probably never will be, the best player on any team he is on at this level, but he is arguably one of the most important. Perkins is best known as a very strong post defender with a mean streak who seemingly takes every basket scored on him as a personal affront. He sets very tough screens on offense, sometimes too tough, causing him to commit more than his share of offensive fouls. His offense is limited, but he is smart enough to only take shots he feels confident making close to the basket. Finally, he plays with passion at all times and gets into it with refs or other players on a fairly regular basis. If he can keep those emotions in check, he is a very good post defender if nothing else.
Did You Know?: The Thunder are 14-0 this season when 5 or more players hit double figures.
Song of the Day: “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the Musical Oklahoma!, as a tribute to the on again, off again, supposed turmoil between Westbrook and Durant, this song talks about how vastly different groups of people should be friends. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achillies), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Re-Evaluating OKC: The Keys to a Successful Offense
OKC has become one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league. The secret to this success is threefold. First, they shoot 27.1 FTs a game, tops in the league, and shoot them better than any other team in the league. Second, they shoot and make just enough 3 pointers to keep opposing defenses honest, making nearly 40% of their 19 attempts per game. Third, they have plenty of players that can create their own shot. They are in the bottom half of the league in assists but make up for it in creating and taking good shots. Its not an easy formula to stop and few have indeed done so effectively this season.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They hold Westbrook/Durant to under 50 combined points. This is not going to be easy, but when OKC’s dynamic duo was held under the 50 point mark last season, they were beatable. If Portland is to beat OKC, they will have to make someone besides OKC’s two best players do it.
Oklahoma City wins if: They shoot at least 30 free throws. The Thunder excel at getting to the line and making their FTs once they get there (almost everyone on the team except Perkins is a great FT shooter) and when they manage 30 attempts a game, they nearly always prevail.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Portland (20-15) at Golden State (22-12)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Golden State -7.5
Refs: Ron Garretson, Courtney Kirkland, Eli Roe
The Skinny: The Blazers look to build off their shocking win over the Miami Heat Thursday night as they face a game in Lillard’s hometown of Oakland. The Rookie of the Year front-runner will doubtless have tons of friends and family in the stands as the Blazers take on the surprising Warriors. The Warriors are coming off two straight losses to the Clippers and the Grizzlies and always tough at home in front of some of the more underappreciated fans in the NBA.
Last Season: The Blazers won the season series 3-1 against the Warriors, including a rare win in Oakland.
Projected Warriors Lineup:
PF-David Lee (Florida-8th Season) 19.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.7 APG.
SF-Harrison Barnes (North Carolina-Rookie)-9.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG.
C-Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt-Rookie)-2.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, .2 APG
SG-Klay Thompson (Washington State-2nd Season)-15.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.6 APG.
PG-Stephen Curry (Davidson-4th Season)-20.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.4 APG.
Player to Watch-Stephen Curry (pictured at right) – When Curry first made it to the NBA, many scouts wondered if his lack of size would limit his NBA potential. As we all know, they were wrong. One of the most gifted pure shooters we have seen in the NBA in a very long time, Curry has blossomed into a budding star. He is also a decent defender and a good rebounder for someone his size. Where he has struggled, however, is in his passing. If Curry is to become a true star, he needs to become a better distributor. Still, one has to think that at least a few of the six teams that drafted players before Curry in the 2009 draft are kicking themselves at missing the opportunity to get him.
Did You Know?: The Warriors are off to their best start since the 1991-92 season, and their next win will equal their entire total from last season.
Song of the Day: “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins-There is some strange magic that comes over the Blazers late in games, its like someone puts a spell on them and they can’t lose. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Golden State: Out-C Andrew Bogut (Fractured Ankle), SG Brandon Rush (ACL/MCL).
Golden State’s Game:
These ain’t your old Warriors. Sure they still play fast on offense, take lots of 3s and score lots of points but now they play defense as well. On offense, almost everyone on their team can shoot and make 3s at almost any time, and as a result they can score lots of points really quickly if their shots are dropping. On defense, they are aggressive and force you to shoot a low percentage (around 43%) and are especially stingy from deep (allowing only 32% shooting from 3). Perhaps most importantly, they do an excellent job limiting you to one shot on offense, sporting the second best defensive rebound rate in the league. If you want to know why their record is so much better last year than hit has been, its their defense more than anything else that has made the difference. When you can score and do a reasonable job stopping your opponents from doing so, you will be able to win a lot of games and the Warriors have.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make their 3 pointers. The Warriors are a stingy team from deep and as Portland relies heavily on the 3, if they can make their deep shots, they should be able to make Lillard’s homecoming a happy one.
Golden State wins if: They hold Portland under 100 points. The Warriors are going to score a lot of points and at their pace if they can keep Portland under the century mark, they should win.CONTINUE WITH POST
For three quarters, Portland played uninspired basketball against Chris Bosh and company, conceding runouts off live ball turnovers, failing to execute anything offensively and letting Bosh do anything he wanted in the post and on spot-ups. Fortunately, quality defense (wut?) in terms of packing the paint against the drives of Wade and James, along with some profligate finishing once at the cup, left Portland within striking distance down the stretch. And strike they did. Led by the whirling dervish energy of Nicolas Batum the Blazers scrambled the Heat’s offense and found enough execution to eventually tie the game on Nic’s coast-to-coast and-1. In a thrilling last two minutes, Wesley Matthews drilled two threes (one to tie the game off a brilliant set play, wide open in the corner, the other a highly contested jack in Ray Allen’s face to give the Blazers the lead. A missed 3 later and the Blazers had stolen it, having been soundly outplayed for 44 minutes the rope-a-dope act worked again.
Things I liked
Nicolas Batum: What can you say? I guess you can say he doesn’t bring it every night like this, but even LeBron wasn’t close to his level tonight. He made a difference on nearly every single play, even providing the key dime to Matthews on the game tying 3. His length and help instincts seemed to bother the Heat’s drivers and he was a key cog in holding Wade to an unproductive evening.
Defense on drives: Portland did a nice job collapsing on Miami’s drives and forcing LeBron to kick out to three point shooters. This is a strategy that will kill teams on many nights but fortunately Miami was just 31.6% from deep. You can’t always pick a strategy that will always work, you have to use the one that will give you a chance, and tonight the commitment to clogging the paint paid off.
One and done: The Heat are trending away from smallball presumably in an effort to clean the boards more effectively, but at least on one end of the floor this didn’t matter as Miami rebounded just 19% of its own misses on the night. So long as the Heat are playing Haslem and Anthony they need to get offensive rebounds or they are big negatives on that end, the Blazers did a good job both eliminating that aspect from Miami’s game and taking advantage of those front court players being inert on offense by swarming to the ball.
JJ Hickson: He was terrible.
That’s all, I’m not going to say anything else was bad in such a feel good win. On to Golden State.CONTINUE WITH POST