Trailblazers welcome Nets: youth vs. experience in Portlandia

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The Nets roll into Portland with a 16-7 record since January 1, making them the third hottest team in the NBA in 2014, behind the Rockets and Grizzlies and tied with the Heat.  After their win over Los Angeles and their history-making decision to sign Jason Collins, the schedule turns north and west.

Portland does indeed seem daunting, but their record since New Year's is not as good as Brooklyn's. They're 13-11, barely above .500. Moreover, in their last 10, they're only 5-5 and haven't beat a team with a winning record since a February 1 win over the Raptors. They played at Denver on Tuesday night, and came away with a nice win against the Nuggets who the Nets play Wednesday.

Still, the Nets don't have a winning record either although if they can get wins in their next three, against Portland, Denver and Milwaukee, they would return to Barclays with their first winning record of the season.  In the meantime, they move from gym to gym arena to arena, out West, answering questions about Collins, Raymond Felton's arrest for gun possession and D-Will's dunking ability. He says he's ready after working with an orthopedist.

The season so far

What's the story here? The numbers will help tell the tale:

Metric

Brooklyn

Portland

Record

26-28 39-18

Pace

93.9 97.9

Offensive Efficiency

102.8 103.0

Defensive Efficiency

104.6 105.5

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.3 28.6

Turnover rate

15.2 13.8

Assist rate

16.7 17.4

Rebound rate

47.8 51.8

Free throw rate

23.5 20.5

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.2 50.5

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 49.4

Shaun Livingston is a game-time decision after resting his tailbone, but other than that, the Nets are healthy. Marcus Thornton seems likely to make his Nets debut after missing two games with food poisoning caused by a bout with lobster mac n cheese.  (Did Dr. Jeremy Bettle, Nets strength and conditioning coach know about this?)

Kevin Garnett is back after missing the Lakers game.  It will be interesting to see how much time Jason Kidd gives Jason Collins ... and Mason Plumlee, not to mention Andray Blatche, who didn't have much of a game vs. L.A.  Didn't help his cause that Dray Dray got caught on camera by TMZ, who claimed he was "hammered" (although he could have just been "blatched," a more common condition.)

For Portland, Lamarcus Aldridge is questionable having missed Tuesday's game with the Nuggets but Damian Lillard made up for the absence of his fellow All-Star by scoring 31 points in the Portland Trail Blazers' 100-95 win over the Denver Nuggets. Aldridge has missed four straight games with a strained left groin and must be considered a game-time decision against the Nets.

The Blazers go with a smaller lineup with Aldridge missing. On Tuesday, Dorell Wright filled in and scored 12 points and gave Portland some deep shooting.

Player to Watch: Damian Lillard

No use in revisiting March 2012 when the Nets traded their lottery pick in the draft for Gerald Wallace. Panic move or not, it's done.  Luckily, the Nets only have to visit the issue twice a year. Lillard has made that trade look like one of the worst in their history, although the chances they would have taken him, with Deron Williams already on the roster, are between slim and none ... the Nets will tell you.

He has been doing workman like duty since the All-Star break, playing even better than D-Will, averaging 30.5 points, handing out 6.8 assists and shooting 44.4 percent from deep, all higher than his season averages.  If Aldridge doesn't play, look for the Trail Blazers to run a lot of plays for him.

From the Vault

Game 1 of the NBA Finals in 1992. Michael Jordan takes over and offers a famous shrug to Cliff Robinson, who late became a fan favorite in New Jersey, but never seemed the same again.

More reading: Blazers Edge

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