Wow, what a start Portland has gotten off to. At 10-2, they find themselves with the third best record in the NBA. They are only a half of a game back from the top record, held by both the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers (10-1).
As Portland has crept up a lot of NBA Power Rankings, the consensus is that their next two games will really show the team’s true colors. These two games should answer the question: Are the Blazers the real deal this year? We’ll find out, Portland hosts the Chicago Bulls at the Moda Center Friday before heading down to the Golden State and taking on the Warriors on Saturday. The Blazers luck seems to continue this year because it looks like as good of a time as any to face each of these teams.
Chicago will be playing their second game of a back-to-back on Friday. They lost Thursday night to the Denver Nuggets. They kept the game close early on, but they didn’t look in sync all night. Derrick Rose struggled in the second half and Loul Deng was absolutely terrible all night going 3/18 from the field. Denver took home a 97-87 victory.
The loss is largely due to the absence of Jimmy Butler. Butler will be out 2-3 weeks with a turf toe injury. Before the injury, Chicago was starting to get on a roll – winning 5 in a row. For Portland, this injury couldn’t have come at a better time. As Chicago tries to find a way to cope without their top young wing, Wesley Matthews has been on fire as of late and should be clear for another spectacular night Friday seeing as how he won’t be shadowed by Butler all night.
Mike Dunleavy started in place of Butler on Thursday night. Kirk Hinrich also played extended minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago starts Hinrich against Portland. He is a much better defensive player, and with the way Portland’s starters have been shooting, they will need all the defensive help that they can get.
I like Portland’s chances in this one. It’s unfortunate that we won’t see Chicago at their best. The top NBA analysts might hold that against Portland… But if they do take home the victory, it will be their 9th straight! And you can’t deny the fact that 11-2 is an outstanding record, regardless of strength of schedule.
VS Golden State
Golden State has their own star player injured – Stephen Curry. Curry suffered a concussion earlier this week and missed Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. They take on the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, so they’ll also be playing their second of a back-to-back Saturday, like Portland.
Curry’s status is uncertain for Friday’s game against the Lakers, but I expect that he will be available for Saturday’s game against Portland as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks (a show of concussion symptoms) until then.
Portland played a great game against the Warriors in their preseason matchup. Yes, I know, it was only preseason, but the starters for both teams played major minutes in that contest. Portland has done a great job of defending the 3-point shot, and an even better job making those same shots. A continuation of that will be needed to take down the Warriors.
You can’t allow Curry and Klay Thompson to get going. Those two guys are their bread and butter. If you can force them into tough shots all night, it makes for an easier night. Stopping the “Splash Brothers”? Better said than done.
This is my most anticipated Blazers game this year. They play a similar style of offense and these games are going to be very fun to watch this year. A heavy load of 3-pointers will be raining over the ORACLE Arena on Saturday, sprinkled in with some low post power forward play. Enjoy!