Friday, November 13, 2009

Trail Blazers at Bobcats: Game 11

The Trail Blazers are riding high into Charlotte, carriers of a 5 game overall win streak and winners of their last 4 away from the friendly confines of the Rose Garden. As bad as the Bobcats have been since their expansion into the league back in 2004, Portland has had their fair share of troubles in Charlotte, as they are losers of their last two down in North Carolina. The Bobcats have never really had one superstar to carry them, rather have out-hustled Portland by following the lead of Gerald "Crash" Wallace, who was everywhere in last year's meeting. Wallace had a beastly game of 31 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
For Portland to come away with a victory tonight, they must contain Crash, because when he gets going, the team follows his lead and whatever fans do show up there, get raucous. Marty and Travis need to play off of him and give him any jump shot he wants; he won't hurt you 15 feet and beyond. The main focus needs to be to box his butt out! Charlotte is dead last in the NBA in points per game at a woeful 83.5 and field goal percentage at 39.8%. Do not let them get into a rhythm by getting garbage points. With our 10 man rotation and Gregzilla working down low, there is no excuse to allow more than 90 against these guys.
Outside of Tyson Chandler, Charlotte isn't a real big team, which plays right into the Trail Blazers' hands. Hopefully LaMarcus has enough of last night's mojo left over and can carry the team to their 6 straight win overall. Boris Diaw is lengthy, but very thin and if the L-Train decides to face him up, he should draw fouls on him at an alarming rate. LMA needs to be the first option on offense tonight, so if he starts scoring in the paint it will force Larry Brown to start sending the double teams, which wold lead to open 3's.
As bad as it all sounds for the Bobcats, they are still 3-1 at home. Portland needs to not take them lightly and let them know who the dominant team is. The longer you let the Cats hang around, the more their confidence will grow, and the harder it will be to come out victorious. I expect it to be close throughout halftime, like all previous 3 games on this road trip have gone, but the depth and talent gap should take over in the 3rd quarter. LMA and Greg are too big and physical down low and along with Joel, should keep Charlotte out of the paint, forcing them to become a jump shooting team. If Portland can defensive rebound, it should lead to a lot of fast-breaking opportunities.
Game 11 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Bobcats 86
Post-Game Thoughts
Yikes! For those of us who didn't think it couldn't get any uglier than the previous victory over New Orleans, we were gravely mistaken. It is pretty sad when the scuffle at the end of the game was the most entertaining facet of the game. More frustrating than cheap fouls on Oden or shooting 5 of 20 from 3 was seeing Portland acquire a 15+ point lead only to allow the opposing team back within striking distance for the second night in a row. Honestly, the Blazers are lucky they have played scrub teams this entire trip so far, because if any of them could shoot, we would have been in for a fight. I'm not sure if it is fatigue or just off nights, but we really need to get into a groove shooting the ball as we head into a tougher stretch of our schedule.
The major key to victory was shutting down Crash and not letting him create chaos on the defensive end or by crashing the offensive glass. Everyone on Portland's end who had to check Wallace did a phenomenal job defending him and the post players did a fantastic job keeping him quiet on the glass. Not many people out there knew he was the NBA's leading rebounder heading into this bout with a little under 14 boards a night. He was held in check with only 8 rebounds, 12 points, 0 blocks, only 1 steal, and forced him to turn it over 3 times. Diaw did his best to keep the Bobcats within shouting distance, but Wallace is truly the only Bobcat who has the ability to win a game single handily.
I hate to call out players, but Steve Blake needs to wake up! How many more open 3's is he going to miss? We all know he is a shooting guard in a point guard's body, so if he isn't hitting the 3, 2-10, what positives is he bringing to the table? I still believe he will break out of this early season shooting slump, but really you can't blame Nate because Rudy is a turnover machine at this point and has Martell made a shot all season long? The options are very slim for him to go to. I do think the change needs to be made in the lineup as I hated seeing Roy having to guard Wallace on defense. He is going to wear down quicker by playing guys on defense that are consistently bigger than he is. At least Marty is a bigger body to deal with those small forwards on the defensive end of the court.
Finally, what a bittersweet game for the Blazers. On one hand we win our 5th straight game on the road, 6th overall, but we lose Travis Outlaw to the same foot injury (stress fracture to the 5th metatarsal) that we saw sideline Webster the entire season last year. Early reports have Outlaw missing 6-8 weeks, which would put him back in the lineup around mid-January. Am I the only one wishing we had Ime right about now? I know there are a ton of Travis doubters out there, but I truly think we will see his absence missed. There are a ton of games when the offense is stagnant, but Trav comes in and heats it up like a microwave. Howard will probably get the first call as the backup to LMA due to his veteran status, but I am really curious to see how Dante Cunningham would fare, as he does have a mid-range jump shot that would keep the defense's honest.
Box Score

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