We are playing the Portland Trailblazers. We have always played the Portland Trailblazers. We have always been at war with Oceania.
Well, not quite. But if there's one team we've seen a lot of lately, it is Portland. And overall this is a good thing, because the Blazers are an entertaining team to watch, the fans at Blazer's Edge are generally bright and reasonable, and they aren't the Lakers (whom we have also seen a lot of lately).
Both teams come into tonight's matchup with fairly similar records, but quite likely, very different feelings about those records. Rockets fans seem to be reasonably pleased with what the Rockets have achieved with their star-deprived roster. Trailblazer fans? Not so much, I think.
There are no panicked Blazer fans running shrieking through the firs yet, but it might not be far off if Portland drops a 4th consecutive game. Thus far, instead of consolidating their gains of the past two seasons, and stepping up to contention, Portland seems to be struggling to find consistency.
I can't say I'm surprised that the addition of Andre Miller has not stabilized their PG situation, but instead made it, somehow, worse. Miller just seems to have that effect, despite there being nothing essentially wrong with his game. Miller is presumably on the trading block now, which given his summer signing, is not a ringing endorsement. Perhaps if Miller is traded Bayless might get a chance, but I doubt it.
The real story thus far is the continued development of Greg Oden, a concept not unlike that of process theology. Greg Oden is not omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, polyamorous. But Greg Oden is becoming omniscient, omnipotent, etc, etc. It is the faith of the believers that makes this process true.
Of course, for a center to be truly effective, the offense needs to run through him. This is a concept Portland has thus far failed to grasp. Tonight would be a poor night for them to start, and if the drama in PDX's frontcourt continues to steer the ship, then we have little worry in that direction. Even so, Oden has been highly effective cleaning up garbage and playing D. Chuck Hayes will have his hands full. We'll see if David Andersen can draw Oden out of the paint, or if he will be trampled on defense.
Portland has, it is true, suffered from some injuries, but this is where their vaunted depth should shine. Meanwhile, we'll continue to be scrappy, stroppy, gritty and hustleful and pray it sees us through yet again. That or sound, unselfish, basketball.
Matchup Analysis - I always get this wrong. Write Your Own Punchline!
Portland has been experimenting with its starting lineup. What we see tonight may in no way resemble this description.
PG - Blake vs Brooks
Steve Blake is a good player with some real limitations. One is that when defending a player like Brooks he often resembles a turnstile. Andre Miller is somewhat better at defense, but has his own limitations - mainly that he sometimes fails to understand his role in the offense and takes shots away from more productive scorers.
SG - Roy vs Ariza.
Brandon Roy, for my money, is one of the top 3 SG in the league at this point. Trevor Ariza is the sort of player who can slow him down. Will he? We'll see. Roy has put up some huge games against us recently.
SF - Webster vs Battier
If Greg Oden is becoming God, then, Portland fans seem to reason, Nic Batum is obviously an archangel, if only because he actually seems to enjoy playing D. Unfortunately for them, he's hurt and they merely have a recent top 10 draft pick to replace him in Martell Webster. Some criticism has Webster content to loiter around the 3pt line, and not much else. I have no idea what Webster will bring. We all know what Battier will bring, but will he add 6 blocks? Let's hope so.
PF - Aldridge/Cunningham vs Scola/Landry
LaMarcus Aldridge is no doubt an effective player, with a sweet jumper. He's not really my preferred style of PF though. He can get hot and score points in bunches certainly, and his mid-range game seems made to work with an offense running through an omnipotent center. For now, that offense isn't Portland. Cunningham is another talented young Blazer player, a rookie in fact. I think Scola and Landry bring more to the party, especially the way Landry has been playing.
C - Odin vs Hayes
We discussed the incipient divinity of Odin in great detail. The All-Father remains a great unknown, perhaps a great-unknowable to mere Rockets' fans. Unless a raven whispers something in our ear soon, then it is not given for us to know what may transpire. Hayes can frustrate nearly any big man, but a Big God? Well, that could be different. We may see lots of Andersen, drawing Odin out of the paint, as Australians just don't show proper respect to anyone.
Prediction: A tough game, but Portland may be in some disarray. Rockets by 4.