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 (33-46) at Denver (54-25)
Game Info: 2 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Denver -14
Refs: Monty McCutchen, Derrick Collins, Kevin Fehr
The Skinny: The Blazers begin their final road trip of the season in perhaps the most difficult place to win in the entire NBA, Denver. Fresh off yet another loss, the Blazers must now face a Nuggets squad that has won 21 straight home games and last lost at home on January 18 to the Wizards of all teams. Denver needs a win to maintain control of the #3 seed.
Last Time They Met: Andre Miller got the last laugh in Portland as he nailed a big shot to give Denver the lead late as they held on for a rare road win for a team in this series.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 2nd season) – 11.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Wilson Chandler (DePaul, 5th season) – 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 APG
C: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, 5th season) – 8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, .4 APG
SG: Andre Iguodala (Arizona, 9th season) – 12.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.4 APG
PG: Andre Miller (Utah, 14th season) – 9.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6 APG
Player to Watch: Andre Miller (pictured below) – Every year it seems people wonder how long Andre Miller can keep his career going at the same level and every year he just keeps plodding along, doing good things. This year is no exception as Andre Miller is never going to light the NBA on fire but he’s going to be there, making crazy ally oop passes and providing solid plays at both ends of the court. With Lawson coming back from an injury, having a player like Andre Miller will help the Nuggets greatly as they approach and enter the playoffs.
Did You Know?: Portland head coach Terry Stotts began his coaching career under George Karl as an assistant with the Albany Patroons of the CBA in 1990-91.
Song of the Day: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Ozbourne-In honor of JaVale McGee being a crazy yet fun to watch player for the Nuggets. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder), Questionable-SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle).
Denver: Out-SF Danilo Gallinari (ACL), PG Julyan Stone (Knee), Questionable-PG Ty Lawson (Plantar Fascitis).
Re-Evaluating Denver: Home Court May Not be Needed for These Nuggets
You’d think a veteran team like Denver might well be able to win a series even if they don’t have home court. In Denver’s case that might actually be correct because, despite their dominance at home, they have done a good job beating good teams on the road. Denver has wins over most of the West’s playoff teams this season, including two over possible first round opponent Houston. So if Denver can manage to steal one game on the road, given how strong they are at home, they have a chance at beating anyone in the playoffs this year.
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 a win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Oklahoma City (58-21) at Portland (33-45)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: OKC -9.5
Refs: Danny Crawford, Eli Roe, Eddie F Rush
The Skinny: The Blazers look to bounce back from a hard fought loss to the Lakers and avoid a winless five game homestand against the West-leading Thunder. OKC holds a very narrow lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference and is coming off an impressive road win over the Warriors Thursday night.
Last time they met: The Blazers held on until a late OKC run buried them in a game that was a lot closer than the final score.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 4th season) – 13.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, .6 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 6th season) – 28.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.5 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 10th season) – 4.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 7th season) – 7.6 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.6 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 5th season) – 23.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5 APG
Player to Watch: Thabo Sefolosha (pictured at right) – On a lineup filled with four solid players, it is often easy to forget Thabo is OKC’s fifth starter. A defensive specialist, Thabo is an excellent one on one defender and is often put on the opponent’s best guard on that end of the court. Thabo is also a very good rebounder but that is where his strengths end. His offensive instincts aren’t great and he is a horribly inconsistent outside shooter. Still, he is something else Portland must reckon with Friday.
Did You Know?: OKC has a point differential of 9.2 points per game, only six teams have ever done better over the course of a season and all six won the NBA title.
Song of the Day: “Get Down with the Sickness” by Distributed. In honor of all of our injuries, this seemed strangely appropriate. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achillies), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder), C JJ Hickson (Back), SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Illness).
Re-Evaluating OKC: Can They Win it All?
OKC fell just one step short of their ultimate goal last season, falling in the NBA finals to a Miami Heat team that was simply better than they were. A year later, the question is whether they can take that final step this year. They surely can but will they? Probably not. Miami really is that much better than everyone else in the NBA this year and if they are healthy, it is hard to see the Heat losing four games out of seven to anyone, even this team. All this assumes of course that OKC makes it that far, no sure thing with the deep western conference playoff field.
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: LA Lakers (41-37) at Portland (33-44)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Lakers -5
Refs: Tom Washington, Matt Boland, Kane Fitzgerald
The Skinny: The Blazers look to pull a rabbit out of a hat as they look to take what is left of their injury-riddled lineup and pull off a win that would likely be fatal to LA’s playoff hopes. The Lakers are currently leading the Jazz by a half game for the final playoff spot.
Last Time They Met: Refs+Kobe=Lakers win that shouldn’t have been.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF-Pau Gasol (Spain-12th Season)-13.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.7 APG.
SF-Earl Clark (Louisville-4th Season) 7.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 APG.
C-Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian (HS)-9th Season)-16.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.4 APG
SG-Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion (HS)-17th Season)-27 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.1 APG.
PG-Steve Blake (Maryland-10th Season)-6.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Pau Gasol (pictured at right)- It has not been the season Pau Gasol would have wanted. He has been hurt much of it, playing in only 44 games this year, and has been less than stellar when he has played. Gasol’s PER this year is a full five points below his worst previous year (last year) and his production is down in all categories. Still, even a diminished Pau Gasol is dangerous and Portland will have to closely watch him on Wednesday.
Did You Know?: Kobe Bryant recently passed Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next up is Michael Jordan, about a thousand points away for Kobe.
Song of the Day: “Now You’re a Man” from the movie Orgazamo. This NSFW song has been running through my head all day. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle), Doubtful-SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder), Questionable-C JJ Hickson (Back).
LA Lakers: Out- C Jordan Hill (Hip), Doubtful-PG Steve Nash (Hamstring).
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: A Season of LA Shortfalls
The Lakers are not the only LA team that has vastly underperformed expectations this year, in fact that were the rule in much of the LA sports scene, with only the MLS’s LA Galaxy living up to their expectations in winning their second straight title (and the NHL’s Kings coming out of nowhere to win it all). UCLA basketball was recently bounced in their first tournament game and their coach was fired despite a highly rated recruiting class, both the LA Angels and Dodgers failed to make the playoffs last year despite much heralded acquisitions and USC football set a new record for most losses by a preseason #1 team. So you see, the Lakers aren’t any different than most LA teams expected to do well this year, as they have fallen well short of expectations.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make the Lakers selfish. The key to beating Kobe has always been to make him beat you with his shot, which deadly as it is, isn’t quite as effective as when Kobe is moving the ball to open shooters. It’s a long shot but frankly with the talent deficit the Blazers have, it’s the best chance they’ve got.
LA Lakers win if: They play their game. The Lakers are the better team and if they come in and play anywhere close to their potential, they should come out with a fairly easy win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Dallas (37-39) at Portland (33-43)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM/102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Dallas -3.5
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, David Guthrie, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to end their seven game skid with their only remaining game against a non-playoff opponent as they face the Mavericks at home on Sunday night Dallas was essentially eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to the Lakers a few nights ago.
Last Time They Met: Dallas held off a furious Portland charge late as they defeated the Blazers in a hard fought game down in Dallas.
Projected Mavericks Lineup:
PF: Dirk Nowitzki (Germany, 15th season) – 17.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.4 APG
SF: Shawn Marion (UNLV, 14th season) – 11.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.4 APG
C: Chris Kaman (Central Michigan, 10th Season) – 10.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, .8 APG
SG: OJ Mayo (USC, 5th season) – 15.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.4 APG
PG: Mike James (Duquesne, 11th season) – 5.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.1 APG
Player to Watch: Chris Kaman (pictured at right) – Its hard to believe Chris Kaman was once an all star the way he is playing of late. He has had a decent season when healthy and he has been healthy more than not this year. Kaman is a good midrange scorer, but most of his value is on defense. He is a good low-post defender and a reasonably strong shot blocker and rebounder. Kaman might not be Dallas’s best player but he’s a pest for sure.
Did You Know?: Dirk needs 59 points to become the 17th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points.
Song of the Day: “That’ll be the Day” by Buddy Holly-One of my favorite songs and a reminder that although today might not be the day for either of these teams to make a playoff run, hopefully that day will come. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder).
Dallas: Out-C Chris Kaman (Concussion), Questionable-SG Vince Carter (Illness).
Re-Evaluating Dallas: End of an Era
When the final buzzer sounded in LA this week, it marked the end of more than just one game, but the likely end of Dallas’s run as an NBA contender. This year will be the first year Dallas has missed the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season, a run which included a surprise NBA title and firmly established the Mavs as a team to fear in the NBA. Whether or not Dirk retires this season (and all indications are he’ll be back for at least one more year), let us all salute Dallas as the most successful era in their franchise’s history comes to an end.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Dallas’s 3 point shooting. The Mavs live and die by the jump shot. Make them attack you inside and they become far less effective. If Portland can do so, they should win.
Dallas wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. The Mavs typically win because of good defense. If they can hold Portland under 90, they will almost certainly prevail tomorrow.CONTINUE WITH POST