This is my first Trail Blazers preview, and I'm kind of pumped. Outside of the Thunder, the Blazers are my favorite non-Rockets team in the NBA. I still don't know why they fired Kevin Pritchard (I know why but I don't know why), but whatever.
Of course, they remind me a lot about our own hometown heroes. They've got a perennially injured big man, a star two guard with chronically bad knees, great depth, and a ton of talent. Sound familiar? They've got a stud power forward and a small forward known for his defense. They've got a couple of sharpshooting backup wings, and a good combination at point guard. In fact, the only real difference between the teams right now is that the Blazers have a much more capable backup center in Marcus Camby. That isn't to say that Brad Miller isn't a good backup center. He is. But is he a true center? No.
I like Nate McMillan. I hated him when the Rockets had to play him, but I like the guy. And I think he'll coach USA Basketball when Krzyzewski stops. And I didn't even have to look up how to spell Coach K's last name. Ha!
The Rockets walk into the Rose Garden at .500 for the second time in three games. But now, they've got to take their show on the road and deal with the Blazers and Nuggets on back-to-back nights. Both teams are currently ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings and both are teams the Rockets will have to tangle with to try to get out of the way of the Lakers, Mavs, and Spurs in the first round. And count me in the group that thinks both of these teams have a better shot of getting into the playoffs than the Hornets.
Now, onto the matchups...
PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Andre Miller:
I'm going back to giving Kyle the start, because I thought if ever Adelman would give it back to Brooks, it would be against the Raptors. He didn't so here we are.
I like Lowry over Miller, but don't underestimate the heady veteran. Miller knows how to score and could turn this into a long night for the Rockets. When Brooks is in, he'll have an easy time getting by Miller, but then he'll have to deal with the length of the Blazers' interior defense. All in all, it's going to get dodgy.
SG: Kevin Martin vs. Wesley Matthews:
Wesley Matthews used to be with the Jazz. Now, he's tearing it up, including a career high against his former team. Umm...me like. Me like very much. Anyone who has beef with the Utah Jazz is welcome here anytime. Matthews will be up for Most Improved Player at the end of the year.
And how spoiled are we that Kevin Martin goes 7-9 from the free throw line and we get upset. You gotta those other two K-Mart!
Advantage: Rockets, but it's closer than you think
SF: Shane Battier vs. Nicolas Batum:
Batum was drafted by the Rockets, in case you forgot. They turned him into Donte Greene, and then into Ron Artest. As nice as it was to get Artest at the time, we'll always have to see Batum and see what could have been had we kept him. I liked the trade at the time, and I still do, but in a few years we might regret it.
PF: Luis Scola vs. LeMarcus Aldridge:
They stats are eerily similar (19/9/2 vs. 20/8/2), but I have to reward the guy who is playing better right now. Scola's stats in the last few games have looked decent, but they just haven't been what we've come to expect from our friend from Argentina. He's better than this, but something isn't right.
What do you guys think?
C: Jordan Hill vs. Marcus Camby
Something I forgot to mention in my Raptors preview: I gave Chuck Hayes the edge for possibly the first time this season, and then he got injured. Sorry guys, but Chuck Hayes may never get an advantage again. Now onto the matchup at hand.
Both players are long, but only one is good defensively. I'll give you two guesses which one. He also put up a sick stat-line of 4/20/5 against the Jazz. It's a safe bet that Camby will end this game with a double-double, probably of the 15/18 variety.
Blazers: Rudy Fernandez, Patty Mills, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, Armon Johnson, Luke Babbitt
Blazers: Roy out, Przybilla out, Oden out
Rockets: Yao out, Hayes out
Prediction: Blazers win a close one, 100-95
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