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Nets try to salvage their road trip in Portland

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All smiles in the City of Roses
All smiles in the City of Roses
Steve Dykes

Two games against "somebodies," and two losses. On the second night of the road trip, the Brooklyn Nets weren't able to pull off the upset and lost to the Golden State Warriors 107-99. After a great homestand last week, this road trip has been a disappointment for Brooklyn. They return to New York after this game so coming away with a win will do wonders for the team's morale.

Waiting for Brooklyn will be the Northwest division leading Portland Trailblazers. The last time they played, they beat the holy hell out of the Denver Nuggets in Denver. The final margin was 17, but the Blazers were up by 34 points (!!!) at the half. Portland is one of the teams that has benefited from Oklahoma City's injury woes. The Blazers are leading with the Northwest Division and with the other teams in the division (Denver, Minnesota and Utah) not being a threat, they have a great chance to create some distance between themselves and the Thunder before Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook return.

Where to follow the game

On television, the game will air on the YES Network. If you're not in the tri-state area, you can see the game on NBATV. If you're listening on the radio, it will air on WFAN after the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche wrap up their game (you can learn about that game from our sister site In Lou We Trust). Tip off is at 10 PM.


Nothing to report on the injury front for Brooklyn.

For Portland, Nicolas Batum has missed the last two games with a right knee contusion. He hopes to return Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Also, LaMarcus Aldridge probably won't be available for this game as he's dealing with an upper respiratory illness. Allen Crabbe will start for Batum and (presumably) Chris Kaman will start in the event Aldridge sits.

The game

The Blazers are the third best rebounding team in the NBA, and that means we might see more of Kevin Garnett. KG only played 12:48 against the Warriors, so he should be well rested for this game. He's still Brooklyn's best rebounder and he will help limit the effectiveness of a player like Kaman. Provided he stays out of foul trouble, Garnett should see about 23 minutes tonight.

Joe Johnson hasn't had the best road trip in the world. He's shot 42 percent from the field and has only made one three pointer. He should have better scoring opportunities with Batum out of action. As one of the team leaders, he has to play well and end the road trip on a positive note. And to tie it back to his comments last Sunday, it's not a good look to play poorly after you call out your own team for beating up on nobodies and not playing tough competition.

Batum being out and Aldridge at less than 100 percent throws things off a bit for the Blazers. The team has been the second best scoring offense two full weeks into the season, averaging 109.5 points per 100 possessions. Aldridge in particular has done well for the Blazers. He's averaging about 22 points a game, and although he's only shooting 45 percent from the field, clunkers against Sacramento and the Clippers have hurt his averages. Despite that, Aldridge has cut down on his turnovers and is slowly adding the three pointer into his arsenal. That should help make the Blazers offense even more once against teams like Houston and San Antonio.

Wesley Matthews will take on some more scoring responsibility with the big name players hobbled. His three point shooting is down compared to recent years, but not by much. He's incredibly effective near the rim, so the Nets have to be cognizant of that.

It's a family affair in the City of Roses this evening. Brook Lopez has endured some struggles in his return from injury while his brother Robin has excelled nine games into the season. Both of the brothers are highly effective close to the basket and can hit jumpers from 15 feet. Robin is the better rebounder and more physical player so that should give him the advantage over Brook as he works his way back into top form.

Player to watch: Damian Lillard

Lillard has improved each season he's been in the league. He's yet to miss a game and is good for 30+ minutes a night. He isn't a great defender defenderby any stretch of the imagination, and the numbers bare it out.

Although his shooting percentages are up across the board, he's taking fewer shots and there are some questions about Dame. Earlier this week, Scott Horlbeck of Blazer's Edge wrote:

More three’s aren’t necessarily a bad thing, just ask the Houston Rockets and the entire Sabermetrics community. But what is a bit troubling is that he may be settling for these shots, rather than coming off the pick-and-roll (or whatever the play) and putting pressure on the defense by attacking the rim and either scoring/drawing a foul/assisting on a basket.

This should make for an intriguing matchup with Deron Williams. Williams has had a decent road trip, but nothing on the caliber of last week's homestand. That was to be expected with the western trip as well as the increase in level of competition compared to the teams Brooklyn played last week. When he's at his best, Williams will constantly attack and get to the rim at will. He should look to post up Lillard at every turn and keep the heat on. Lillard hasn't gotten to the rim as often as he did last year and the season before, but that should change starting tonight.

From the Vault

Slide on back to 2000 and watch Scottie Pippen and the Blazers begin their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. If Portland had been able to complete the comeback, who knows how different history would be?

More reading: Blazer's Edge