Trail Blazers/Bobcats Pre-Game
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 02/01/2010 1:50 PM

    After a successful split on the Texas Two Step, Portland (28-21) returns home to the friendly confines of the Rose Garden to face off against the surprising Bobcats (24-22). Since acquiring Stephen Jackson from the Warriors on November 15th, the Bobcats have really taken the East by surprise, going 21-16 and supplanting themselves as a legit playoff contender for the first time in franchise history. Outside of giving themselves much more offensive firepower with Jackson, 1st time All-Star Gerald Wallace has found a way to improve even more so in his 9th season in the league. His 19.3 points per game are up from last year's 16.6, rebounds have soared from 7.8 a night to 11, and his three-point shooting is up nearly 8% from 29.1% to 37.1% all while maintaining his approximate 3 combined steals and blocks per game. Although being above .500 is uncharted territory for the Bobcats, they have done much of their damage at home, going 18-5, while playing abysmally away from North Carolina as their 6-17 road record would indicate. They are 7-3 in their last 10, so something has to give, either their recent hot play or struggles away from home.

    A lot of people felt that Stephen Jackson was a product of the Golden State offense and his numbers only reflected an extremely high pace which enables their players to shoot at will, basically inflating his statistics, yet Jackson has proved them wrong so far in his 37 games with the Bobcats. His 21.2 points per game with Charlotte is the highest in his 10 year career as is his .423 field goal percentage with at least 750 attempts on the season. Earlier in the year if Portland had matched up with this current Bobcat team, I would be worried, but since the return of Batum, I have a great feeling Jackson will have to earn everything he gets tonight and if for whatever reason Batum's assignment is someone else, Martell Webster hasn't been too shabby so far on defense this year either.

    If Charlotte goes big, which they could with Chandler, Diaw, Wallace, Jackson, and Felton, it could cause a lot of matchup problems for the Trail Blazers. With Roy's absence, the Blazers have been using a two point guard backcourt, which has its own advantages but Bayless and/or Miller trying to guard Jackson would be a nightmare. Batum can't defend everyone, so it becomes imperative that LaMarcus Aldridge steps up tonight defensively and on the glass. Without Greg and Joel, Chandler could have a field day on the glass and Aldridge must improve on that 4 rebound performance again Dallas. On defense, he is either going to be checking Diaw, who had a team-high 21 points in the last meeting between the two teams, or Wallace, who plays with reckless abandon and is one of the hardest working players in the league. What I have noticed about LMA lately is he likes to swipe at the ball/player way too often as seen by his late foul on Nowitzki on Saturday when he poked him in the face. He must play disciplined defense by doing the fundamentals, moving the feet and keeping his hands up.

    Tonight's key to the game is defense, bottom line. In the past two home losses, New Orleans and Utah got to any spot of the floor at will and made it happen. They used many variations of the pick and roll to obtain well over 45 points in the paint and over 50% field goal shooting to boot. Portland must hold Charlotte to under 45% field goal shooting and below 45 points in the paint. Andre Miller can not score 52 points every game in Roy's absence, so the defense must be there tonight even if the offense isn't running on full cylinders.

    Tonight's game is a toss-up either way you split it. I can realistically see either team coming away victorious tonight. On one hand, Portland is playing at home and coming off of an emotionally high win in Dallas and add to the fact Charlotte is terrible on the road, it could lead to a Blazer win. Then again, Portland has been playing awful lately in front of the home crowd, could get off to another slow start, and get out-hustled by the scrappy Bobcats. My head says Charlotte, heart says Portland. Got to go with the heart on this one as I just can't fathom losing a third straight home game in what has become one of the toughest venues in all of the NBA. Don't expect much out of Dre tonight as he is probably still feeling the effects of going off for 52 and will be dog tired, so look for Bayless' aggressiveness, Batum's defense, and Rudy's big play-making ability to lead the charge for Portland tonight.
    Game 50 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Bobcats 94
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