Three on the Road
By Kassandra Posted in: AndreMiller, Blazers, BrandonRoy, DanteCunningham, JoelPrzybilla, LaMarcusAldridge, MarcusCamby, Pistons, Raptors, RudyFernandez, Timberwolves, WesleyMatthews
If you look at a map of North America and match it up against the Blazers' opponents on their upcoming three-game road trip, you'd have a tough time finding another NBA team with a latitude closer to the north pole (with the exception of Milwaukee).
Portland visits Toronto on Friday, Detroit on Sunday and closes out the second half of a back-to-back at Minnesota on Monday.
The Blazers have had their issues on the road this season, standing at 10-17 away from the friendly confines of the Rose Garden. However, Toronto and Minnesota are just about as good in their own arenas, and Detroit is barely hovering over .500 at 13-12. Combined, the trio are just 31-44 at home, and a paltry 47-11 overall.
This presents an interesting recipe for opportunity for the Blazers, and the possibility of sweeping the road trip. Could they? Should we talk about it? Dare I write about it? On all counts: Why not? We've all seen what this team can do when they play their game.
Now I'm sure Nate MacMillan would tell you that all he's worrying about right now are the Raptors. Fair enough. On the other hand, I doubt there is a Blazer fan in Blazerland who hasn't had a thought about all three contests.
(14-39, 9-16 at home). We haven't seen the Raptors since November 6 when Brandon led the Blazers to a 97-84 win. He scored 26, while LaMarcus added 22 points and 10 rebounds (though Marcus led the Blazers with 16 boards). Former Blazer Jarrett Jack was Toronto's high scorer, though he has since been traded for another former Blazer, Jerryd Bayless. This is the first game in which we'll see Bayless in a Raptors' uniform, and the Blazers will most likely be without Brandon. Andrea Bargnani leads Toronto in scoring at 21.3 points per game and forward Reggie Evans is tops in rebounds at 12.1. Bargnani stands 7' and weighs in at 250 lbs, pretty comparable to either LaMarcus or Joel, who most likely would be defending him. Otherwise, "Canada's team" doesn't seem to be particularly tall, which could help the blazers should Marcus not be able to return from injury for the game. Ball movement could be a key against the Raptors, as Andre dished out 13 assists on the way to the win.
(20-33, 13-12 at home). The Blazers hosted the Pistons just three days after the Raptors, with LaMarcus tallying 19 points and 17 rebounds in a 100-78 Blazers' rout of the visitors. Five Blazers scored in double figures in the game, including Rudy and Dante off the bench with 13 and 10 points, respectively. With Brandon still in the lineup, Wesley was still coming off the bench for Portland. Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons in scoring for the game, but none of his teammates played more than 27 minutes. The Pistons got very little production from the guards in the first game, which could bode well for the likes of Wesley, Rudy and Nicolas. Detroit also features perennial defender and shot blocker Ben Wallace, now in his 15th season in the league. Beyond Wallace, Detroit lacks much bulk and experience in its front line. This could open things up for LaMarcus who, as mentioned, had a very good rebounding performance in the first game.
(13-19, 9-16 at home). Porltland fans should be all too familiar with the Timberwolves and Kevin Love, who has led them to that .250 record. There will be much talk of the all-star snub and selection of LaMarcus and Love, respectively. Perhaps rightfully so; perhaps not. We could sit here and talk about LaMarcus' outstanding performances against the Timberwolves, or Love's rebounding prowess, but there's only one stat which seems to apply when talking about a Portland-Minnesota matchup: 3-0. The Blazers have won all three meetings by a combined 26 points. Love did clean up much of the glass, averaging 18.3 rebounds per contest, but LaMarcus has gotten the better of him in the overall series with averages of 33.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. He also posted a then-career high of 37 points on January 17. Just 10 days earlier, Wesley registered his own career high at Minnesota with 36. The Blazers can certainly sweep the season series. In addition to Love, they'll have to keep a close eye on rising NBA talent Michael Beasley, who scored 33 in the team's first game on December 17.
As with most teams, the Blazers can win on any given night. This road trip surely presents an opportunity for Portland to pick up three wins prior to a tough five-game homestand. It's expected that Marcus will return to action at some point during the trip, but unsure exactly when. While Brandon seems to be itching to return, recent reports indicate it won't happen until the team returns to Portland.
The Blazers can certainly win against these teams, whether at the Rose Garden or in the other team's arena.