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Nets open circus road trip vs Blazers

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Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Road trip! The Brooklyn Nets played their final home game this month at Barclays Center on Sunday evening. Unfortunately for them, they didn't send the fans home happy and they ended up losing 104-96 to the Charlotte Hornets. The circus will be in town for the next few weeks, so the Nets will be hooping across North America in the mean time.

How long is the trip? 7,979 air miles. It's the longest road trip in team history and the longest in the NBA this season. And they don't even get frequent flier miles!

The first opponent on the circus trip will be the Portland Trailblazers. After losing LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum over the summer, most people expected them to rebuild this season and not compete for the playoffs. However, they've exceeded expectations and find themselves in seventh place in the Western Conference. They beat the Jazz on Sunday night and pushed their winning streak to five.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM for radio. We're on the West Coast, so tip off is after 10 PM.

Injuries

Everyone is good to go on both sides, other than Jarrett Jack, out for the season, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who's out at least another two weeks.

The game

Here's how these two teams compare:

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Portland

Record

15-41 29-27

Pace

96.65 97.61

Offensive Efficiency

99.6 105

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 104.3

Turnover Rate

15.4 15

Assist Rate

16.9 16.3

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.7 26.9

Rebound Rate

49.6 51.8

Free Throw Rate

23.3 25.5

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.7 50.8

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

52.5 49.9

Portland won the first game in January.

The Nets will be on the road, and so will some friends of ours. Nets fans Dawn Risueno and Richard Johnson will be crossing the country and watching all of the games in person. Pooch spoke with them a few days ago and it's a good read.

Losing ALdridge hurt, but it appears that the Blazers have the right ideas going forward on how to replace him and fit in with the constantly evolving NBA. Evans Clinchy has more over at Blazers Edge:

While the league evolves, the Blazers are wisely adapting to the changing times. Not that they wanted to lose LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency last summer because they obviously didn't, but in so doing, they've been able to reinvent their style of play quickly and seamlessly. Aldridge was a ball-stopping player who demanded the ball in his spots - usually either the elbow or the left block - and set up shop for five or 10 seconds at a time, creating for himself first and teammates secondarily. That was effective for a time, but as Aldridge aged and the league adapted, it wasn't going to work forever. Without their former leader, the Blazers have reoriented themselves around the shooting of Lillard, McCollum, Allen Crabbe and others. That might be just what they need to survive the coming years.

One of those guys leading the way for Portland will be CJ McCollum. After two injury plagued seasons to start his career, he's appeared in all but two games this season (and one of those missed games was due to a clerical error). He's shooting 40 percent from three point range and presents a variety of issues for defenders when he's running the pick and roll. Markel Brown only played seven minutes in the first game, so to counter CJ, Tony Brown might give him more playing time.

One last thing on McCollum before we move on. He recently started a program called "CJ's Press Pass" where he will mentor high school kids and get them journalism experience. It's really great to see players helping the next generation of writers break into the field.

Brook Lopez has shot over 50 percent from the field in every game this month except the one in Philadelphia. When the Nets work to get him the ball, good things tend to happen for the Nets offense. He should be able to have some success against the duo of Meyers Leonard and Mason Plumlee tonight.

Player to watch: Damian Lillard

Fans and coaches keep omitting Dame from the All Star Game, and he keeps making teams pay. The first game of the second half saw Lillard matched up with Steph Curry and the Warriors. What did Lillard do? Score a career high 51 points in a dominating Blazers victory. And for a follow up? 30 points in a big win over the Jazz. Lillard became the first Blazer to score 30 or more points in four straight games since Clyde Drexler in 1991. Lillard's a fantastic scorer, but he's a good passing guard as well. If the Blazers make the playoffs, don't be surprised if Dame gets a few MVP votes.

Lillard is a bad defensive guard, but that won't matter here. Donald Sloan and Shane Larkin aren't guards that have the ability to score consistently and work best when they're setting up their teammates. Sloan did have nine assists the last time he played Portland and was one rebound and assist away from ending the Nets triple double drought.

From the Vault

When he's not on the court, Lillard raps. He's pretty dope, too.

More reading: Blazer's Edge