81 games are in the books, leaving just one more regular season game to play. Tonight, Portland (50-31) looks to accomplish many feats; clinching 6th out West, figuring out who the first round opponent will be, maintaining momentum from Monday's win all the way into the playoffs, and giving the fans a good ole' fashioned beat down of Golden State (25-56) on Fan Appreciation Night. The Trail Blazers have taken two out of the first three seasonal matchups this year, including an impressive defensive performance with only eight active players on January 2nd, winning 105-89 and allowing only 48 points after the 1st quarter. But, like many games played earlier in the year, they must be taken with a grain of salt, especially since Golden State doesn't have half of that team available anymore due to injuries and Portland had half of theirs out due to injuries. If one team can sympathize with us about our turbulent 09-10 season, it's the Warriors who have had over 300 games missed to injury as well. Win or lose, the #1 objective for tonight's game must be to keep everyone healthy. With the later start at 7:30 PM, Portland will know exactly what they need to do in regards to seeding. If Dallas beats San Antonio, the outcome of the Blazers/Warriors game is a moot point, because the 6th seed will be wrapped up. Knowing Coach Nate, he'll have his troops ready to play to win, which is the right decision, but it'd also be nice to be able to rest our vets whom we have relied upon so heavily down the second half of the season. It looks like the Trail Blazers will be without he services of LaMarcus Aldridge as he was hospitalized last night with a stomach virus and was released today but considering he's dealing with a left calf strain after Collison tackled him on Monday, LA is listed as doubtful for tonight and its probably for the better. Juwan Howard would be the starter if the L-Train is indeed derailed for tonight only. In what could turn out to be a completely meaningless game, look for a lot of Cunningham, Pendergraph, Mills, Webster, Rudy, and Bayless. Of course it would be superb to win #52, but at what cost? It wouldn't be the smartest move to push Camby, Andre, and Juwan for 35-40 minutes and tire them out even more for the weekend's first playoff game. As painful as it is to say, maybe LA not playing tonight is a blessing in disguise. With the way the injuries have snowballed this year, who knows who's next? At least this way, everyone on the team is able to get into a rhythm heading in the post-season. Personally, I still think Cunningham could have a nice impact in the NBA's second season, but his jumper needs to be stuck on automatic to do so and no better way to get him into a groove than play him heavy minutes tonight. The same goes for Rudy and Jerryd who have struggled mightily since the New Year. Even without Roy, Aldridge, Oden, and Przybilla, Golden State still may be the more banged up team as they only played seven players last night and may again only have eight players available for action tonight. Let's not forget the back to back the Warriors are going to be dealing with along with vacation spots dancing around in their heads, being the final action for a lottery bound team. On the other hand, Coach Nate will have whomever suits up in the Rip City jerseys tonight 100% focused and zoned in on the job at hand. Portland eats adversity for breakfast. Roy's torn meniscus, Aldridge's hospitalization, or whatever, after all that the team has gone through it just starts rolling off your backs after a while. Whatever the current playing roster looks like between now and 7:30, I am extremely confident in their ability to finish the season off on a strong note and win one for the fans and keeping some nice steam going as they head into a hostile environment come this weekend. Watch out for big nights from Bayless, Cunningham, and Batum as Portland sends their fans home happy. Game 82 Prediction: Trail Blazers 103 Warriors 97
In a meaningless game that saw Aldridge, Roy, and Camby all sit, Andre play only 9 minutes to keep his Iron-man streak in tact, and Golden State play really only five guys, including George who fouled out but was allowed to continue playing due to a loophole in the rulebook, Golden State ended up winning 122-116. In short, we found out Jeff can fly high, Dante's a better rebounder than given credit for, Patty's jumper is almost as awesome as his accent, Bayless' court vision has re-emerged, Rudy throws a sweet one motion scoop lob pass, Marty makes 3's, Andre's still our Iron-man, Juwan and Marcus get excited when Lil' Bit throws down, Nico can fly as well, and Diener didn't score. All in all, a great Fan Appreciation Night!
Official Game Photos