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: Houston (42-33) at Portland (33-42)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on CSNNW/ESPN, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Houston -6
Refs: Mike Callahan, Brian Forte, Ed Malloy
The Skinny: The Blazers look to end their six game losing skid as they welcome in a Rockets team that is all but ensured of their first playoff bid since the 2008-09 season. The Rockets come in fresh off of a surprisingly narrow win in Sacramento and have won three straight.
Last Time They Met: The Rockets buried the Blazers early under a barrage of 3 pointers and didn’t let up, going 12-26 from distance as they cruised to an easy home win over the Blazers.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Greg Smith (Fresno State, 2nd season) – 5.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .3 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida, 2nd season) – 15.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.5 APG
C: Omer Asik (Turkey, 3rd season) – 10.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, .9 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State, 4th season) – 25.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.9 APG
PG: Jeremy Lin (Harvard, 3rd season) – 13 PPG, 3 RPG, 6.1 APG
Player to Watch: Chandler Parsons (pictured at right) – There weren’t a whole lot who expected much out of this 2011 second round pick but the Rockets seem to have found a gem in Parsons. Parsons is an improving shooter who has great size and athleticism for his position, sporting an impressive 57.9% true shooting % this season. He has improved from an atrocious 56% free throw shooter his rookie season to an acceptable 72% from the line this season. His defense could use some work but that is more the product of lack of experience than anything else. Parsons is yet another solid player the Rockets have managed to acquire for virtually no cost.
Did You Know?: After their mid-season trade of Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons is now the longest tenured player on the Rockets roster.
Song of the Day: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” from the Game of Thornes. Okay so I think Game of Thrones is awesome and as a result, this song is awesome. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), Doubtful-SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder/Arm), Probable-PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle).
Houston: Questionable-SG Carlos Delfino (Foot).
Re-Evaluating Houston: Punting for the Future?
When the Rockets traded Patrick Patterson and others to the Kings in exchange for disgruntled first round pick Thomas Robinson, they made a move that, although strong for the future if Robinson develops was nonetheless not exactly kind to the present. Patterson was a key player on a team that was growing and succeeding and perhaps, some argued, there is such a thing as too much roster turnover in one year? In my opinion, this is not much of a real worry. Robinson has enough potential upside and Houston enough cap flexibility this offseason that if he develops into anything it could turn out to be one of the best deals the Rockets have ever made. Far from punting for the future, it maybe hurt them for one year at most.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit second chance points. The Rockets, especially Asik, feast on second chance opportunities. If the Blazers can limit those, they should be able to make life difficult for Houston and come out with a win.
Houston wins if: They make their 3s. The Rockets don’t have to make 23 3s (as they did vs. the Warriors not too long ago) to beat Portland, far from it, but if they can shoot a reasonable percentage in making 10-15, they should prevail.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Memphis (50-24) at Portland (33-41)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW/NBATV, radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Memphis -4
Refs: Tony Brothers, Pat Fraher, Courtney Kirkland
The Skinny: The Blazers look to rebound from their fifth straight loss as they open a long home stand against playoff contenders against the surging Grizzlies. Memphis has won three straight and is in a tough battle with Denver and the LA Clippers for the 3-5 seeds in the west.
Last Time They Met: It was a familiar tale for the Blazers as they dug themselves a big hole, made a nice run but were unable to climb out as Memphis won in Portland.
Projected Grizzlies Lineup:
PF: Zach Randolph (Michigan State, 12th season) – 15.5 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.5 APG
SF: Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky, 11th season) – 10.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.5 APG
C: Marc Gasol (Spain, 5th season) – 14.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.9 APG
SG: Tony Allen (Oklahoma State, 9th season) – 9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.2 APG
PG: Michael Conley (Ohio State, 6th season) – 14.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 6.2 APG
Player to Watch: Michael Conley (pictured at right) – A few years into his career Conley was hardly impressing anyone, turning the ball over too much, having trouble defending players and often exhibiting really poor shot selection. How times have changed. Conley is an improving floor general with great hands and quickness, along with a good outside shot (that he is finally using at a good rate). Conley is also excellent at forcing steals and although he is otherwise not a very good defender, those steals often lead to easy Memphis points, important for a team that can stagnate at times on offense. He will be a challenge for Portland on Wednesday.
Did You Know?: Memphis is 17-6 since the all star break, good for the third best record in the NBA during that span.
Song of the Day: “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins. With their playoff hopes gone, the Blazers had best treasure each one of the remaining games this season and this song captures this mood. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable-PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle).
Re-Evaluating Memphis: Does Home Court Matter to Memphis?
There is no doubt that every NBA team would rather play as many playoff games as possible at home but it matters more for some teams, Denver say, than others. For Memphis, they have been pretty consistent both away from home and at home this year and their upset of the Spurs two years ago in the playoffs show they don’t mind winning playoff games on the road. So while it may be preferable that Memphis have home court in this year’s playoffs, it is by no means a necessity for this bunch.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They take care of the ball. If Portland doesn’t turn the ball against Memphis, they will take away Memphis’ primary offensive weapon and stand a good chance of beating them.
Memphis wins if: They are able to stretch the Portland defense. Memphis is not a great jump shooting team. If they can reverse that, get hot tonight and stretch the Portland defense, opening up the inside to easy baskets, they should be able to score enough points to win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Portland (33-40) at Utah (38-36)
Game Info: 6 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Utah -9
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, Dick Bavetta, David Guthrie
The Skinny: After getting blown out by a superior Warriors team in Oakland Saturday night, the Blazers conclude their two game mini-road trip in Utah Monday. Portland will look to secure a season-series split against a Jazz team needing wins to maintain a lead over the Lakers for the West’s final playoff spot. Utah has now won four straight after having lost four straight prior to their current streak.
Last Time They Met: Portland played well through in the first half but Aldridge’s absence cost them dearly as Utah simply wore down the Blazers and pulled away late to secure a win in Portland.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech-7th Season) 14.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.6 APG.
SF-Gordon Hayward (Butler-3rd Season)-14.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.9 APG.
C-Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS)-9th Season)-17.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 APG
SG-Randy Foye (Villanova-7th Season)-10.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2 APG.
PG-Mo Williams (Alabama-10th Season)-12.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 6.3 APG.
Player to Watch: Randy Foye (pictured at right) – It is perhaps only an accident that this one time Blazers draft pick (traded immediately on draft day) has a name that rhymes with the player he was traded for, Brandon Roy. Beyond that, there is little to compare the two players, even when Roy was playing and playing extremely well. At his best, Foye is basically a solid spot up shooter who doesn’t turn the ball over very much. Beyond that, however, his abilities are limited as Foye is a poor defender, can’t rebound well and even though he shoots well from the line doesn’t do a good job drawing fouls. If Utah wants to improve, Foye is probably not the answer for them as starting SG.
Did You Know?: The Jazz won last year’s season series over Portland and have not won consecutive season series over the Blazers since the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
Song of the Day: “Salt Lake City” by the Beach Boys-Not exactly one of their best known songs but the Beach Boys did release this song back in 1965. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle).
Utah: Out-C Enes Kanter (Shoulder).
Re-Evaluating Utah: Playoff Chances
Utah made the playoffs last year after a furious late season charge but their stay was short-lived, as they were swept by the Jazz in a series where frankly the outcome of no individual game, let alone the series as a whole, was ever truly in doubt. With a likely rematch this year versus the Spurs or possibly against the Thunder should they make the playoffs, will Utah fare much better? Probably not, as the most the Jazz will probably win is one game, the Thunder and Spurs are simply that much better than they are and it is hard to see the Jazz as being little more than a proverbial speed bump for OKC or SA as those teams race towards a possible NBA title.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They get something resembling balance on offense. No one player on Portland can beat a quality opponent like Utah alone especially without Aldridge playing.
Utah wins if: They score 100 points. Utah is very hard to beat when they top the century mark and if they do it Monday, they probably win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Portland (33-39) at Golden State (41-32)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Golden State -9.5
Refs: Ron Garretson, Marat Kogut, Leon Wood.
The Skinny: The Blazers look to bounce back from a fourth quarter to forget Friday as they travel to Oakland to face the Warriors. Golden State has shaken off its post all-star break slump as of late, although they stubbed their toe with a bad home loss to the Kings their last time out. Golden State’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is currently down to 4.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers dug themselves too big a hole and even a monster 37 points from Lillard couldn’t quite dig them out as Golden State prevailed.
Projected Warriors Lineup:
PF-David Lee (Florida-8th Season) 18.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.7 APG.
SF-Harrison Barnes (North Carolina-Rookie)-9.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 APG.
C-Andrew Bogut (Utah-8th Season)-6.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.4 APG
SG-Klay Thompson (Washington State-2nd Season)-16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.2 APG.
PG-Stephen Curry (Davidson-4th Season)-22.4 PPG, 4 RPG, 6.8 APG.
Player to Watch-Klay Thompson (pictured at right) –Thompson is primarily an outside shooter with decent size for his position. His size allows him to play decent defense as well. However, although he is big, he is not fast and so he can struggle to defend faster smaller players. In addition, as good a shooter as he is, he can be wildly inconsistent at times. Still, if Thompson gets into a groove watch you because he can pile up points in a hurry, as he has several times in recent games.
Did You Know?: Did You Know?: Klay’s father Mychal Thompson, was picked first overall by the Blazers in the 1978 NBA Draft.
Song of the Day: “Nice Guys Finish Last” by Green Day-We all know the Blazers are mostly nice guys and since they aren’t going to make the playoffs, it is true once again that nice guys finish last. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle), Doubtful-SF Sasha Pavlovic (Quad).
Golden State: Out- SG Brandon Rush (ACL/MCL).
Re-Evaluating Golden State: Defense?
Golden State of the past several years has been pretty consistent in that they play good offense and almost no defense. This year, part of their success has been a result of changing that. Their defensive efficiency is way up, down to 102.3, good for 13th in the league. This is probably as much effort as it is coaching and improved talent. If the Warriors are to make a playoff run, this improved defense will be key to letting them do so.
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
Team Records: Utah (36-36) at Portland (33-38)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Portland -3
Refs: Derrick Stafford, Kevin Scott, Zach Zarba
The Skinny: After coming out flat and getting crushed by the Nets on Wednesday, the Blazers face the playoff-hungry Jazz as Utah looks for a key win in its battle with the Lakers for the final playoff spot out west. Utah has won two straight after snapping out of a four-game losing streak that threatened to derail their playoff hopes for good. With a win Friday Utah will move back into a tie with the Lakers for the #8 seed out west.
Last Time They Met: Portland took control early and hung on late to rebound from a loss to the Jazz the prior night in Utah with a home win that snapped a five game losing streak to the Jazz.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech-7th Season) 14.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.5 APG.
SF-Gordon Hayward (Butler-3rd Season)-14.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.8 APG.
C-Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS)-9th Season)-17.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 APG
SG-Randy Foye (Villanova-7th Season)-10.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2 APG.
PG-Mo Williams (Alabama-10th Season)-11.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 6.4 APG.
Player to Watch: Gordon Hayward (pictured at right) – It was almost the most incredible shot in NCAA history, the one Gordon Hayward just missed from half court that would have given Butler a shocking national title over Duke. Yet, it fell short, and for the most part, so has Hayward’s NBA career. While he has found a niche as a big athletic guard who can attack the rim and draw fouls, Hayward has struggled to shop consistently well from the field. His defense is also suspect and needs work in virtually all aspects. If Utah wants to move beyond a fringe playoff team, Hayward either has to get better or they have to upgrade at his position.
Did You Know?: The Jazz have only ten road wins this year, with only two over teams with winning records, one against the Lakers and one versus the Brookyn Nets.
Song of the Day: “Man Up” from the Musical “Book of Mormon”-One of my favorite songs from one of the most hilarious musicals of all time. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), Doubtful-SF Sasha Pavlovic (Quad), Questionable-PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle), C JJ Hickson (Illness).
Utah: Out-C Enes Kanter (Shoulder).
Re-Evaluating Utah: Trouble in the Close
If Utah misses the playoffs this year, perhaps the biggest culprit will be their inability to close out games well. The Jazz have blown several leads late this year and are only 5-7 in games decided by three or less. While some of this is statistical noise, close games are often as much about luck as they are anything else, it may also have to do with Utah’s poor lineup selection. In particular, their insistence on relying on a weak defensive lineup that uses Hayward and Foye has hurt the Jazz. With their remaining schedule Utah will probably nab that eighth spot but it certainly won’t be because they are good at winning close games.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They get something resembling balance on offense. No one player on Portland can beat a quality opponent like Utah alone. The Blazers will need balance to win Friday.
Utah wins if: They score 100 points. Utah is very hard to beat when they top the century mark and if they do it Friday, they probably win.CONTINUE WITH POST