Nets-Blazers Preview: Nets Look to End Road Trip on High Note


Tonight, the Nets will conclude their 4-game west coast road trip in Portland, Oregon with a game against the Trail Blazers at 10 PM eastern. If the Nets can win this game, they will improve to 3-1 on a western conference road trip, which is something that this team rarely, if ever, accomplishes. The Nets have been playing very good, tough basketball recently, led by former Trail Blazer Gerald Wallace. This will obviously be Wallace’s first game back in Portland since the trade a few weeks ago, and he might be mad at the Blazers for trading him to a non-playoff contender. We will see if he turns that anger into motivation to help the Nets win this game.

The Nets’ record against the Blazers all-time is not pretty at all: 20-53 overall and just 5-31 in Portland. It really doesn’t get much worse. However, since Portland traded Wallace at the trade deadline, they have basically given up on this season. They are currently in 11th in the west and are 4 games behind 8th place Houston. There is just about no chance of the Blazers making the playoffs at this point, and they really don’t have a very talented roster right now. They might decide to tank for the rest of the season. Another motivating factor for Portland to lose this game is that they own the Nets’ draft pick if it is not in the top 3. The Blazers can minimize the chances of it being in the top 3 if they let the Nets pick up another win tonight. The Nets currently have the fifth worse record in the NBA, which may be a little bit risky if you are a Trail Blazers fan. It would really hurt them to not get the Nets’ pick this year. I would not be shocked if we saw plenty of Blazers garbage time in uncommon situations tonight if they are trying to lose this game on purpose.

The Nets are coming off of one of their best efforts of the season in a loss to the Lakers. They fought back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game, led by Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace. I think that both of them will be motivated to win this game tonight.

Key matchups:

Deron Williams vs. Raymond Felton. Advantage: Williams

Raymond Felton has had a very disappointing season so far. Last year, as a free agent, he signed with the Knicks and was having a great season with an exciting, young team. Then the Carmelo trade happened, and Felton went to Denver to back up Ty Lawson. That trade obviously ruined the Knicks, but it also ruined Felton. He wanted to be a starter and the backup role caused him to become lazy. In the offseason, with the lockout and everything, Felton became overweight and stopped caring. And it has shown. With the Knicks last year, Felton averaged 17 ppg and 9 apg. This year, he is averaging just 11 ppg and 6 apg. That is way down. For Deron, this game may be the last he plays this year in front of a good crowd, which he likes doing. The Blazers sell out every game and are passionate about their team. After tonight, the Nets will only have 3 road games remaining-at Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Toronto, and none of those places have great fans. Deron may want to shine tonight.

Marshon Brooks vs. Wesley Matthews. Advantage: Matthews

Since the Gerald Wallace trade, Matthews’s numbers have been way up. Even though he is only averaging 13 ppg, he scored a season high 33 in his last game, and will look to continue his scoring against weak defenders in Marshon and Gerald Green tonight. I would not be surprised if Matthews was the leading scorer for Portland again. Marshon is trash.

Gerald Wallace vs. Nicolas Batum. Advantage: Wallace

Batum is a solid player offensively, but he doesn’t play much defense. If Wallace stays on Batum the whole game, which he should, he will know his offensive tendencies from when he was teammates with Batum. Wallace may shut him down. Also, you have to think that Crash is going to be motivated to play well in this game. There is no way he wanted to be traded to the Nets, and he may want payback here.

Kris Humphries vs. LaMarcus Aldridge.  Advantage: Push

Aldridge is having a great season this year, averaging 22 ppg and 8 rpg. He also made his first all-star team and has become the best player and leader for Portland. However, I think this is a pretty good matchup for The Hump. We should see these two have plenty of good battles tonight.

????? vs. ??????. Advantage: ?????

Oh, NBA centers. Every possible center on both of these teams is just SO terrible that I’m disgusted even thinking about it. For the Nets, I have no idea who will be starting. The starter the last few games, Johan Petro, got injured in the third quarter of the Lakers game and never returned. I have no idea if he can play tonight. There were some rumblings that Shelden may return to the lineup last night or tonight, but that is unlikely. The only other option at center is Jordan Williams. I really don’t know what Coach Avery is going to do here. For Portland, their options are just as disgusting. Their likely starter is Joel Pryzbilla who is averaging less than 2 ppg. Believe it or not, that is less than Petro. Pryzbilla is a solid defender, but he obviously won’t be guarding anyone important, so that doesn’t really matter. Pryzbilla has scored a grand total of 1 point in the Blazers’ last five games. The backup center is Kurt Thomas, who’s age is no longer known to man, but is approximated at 237 years. He is averaging less than 3 ppg, and has scored a grand total of 0 points in the Blazers’ last five games. However, in Thomas’s heyday, he did average 25 ppg and 12 rpg on the 1956 Minneapolis Lakers (OK, I completely made that up). In conclusion, this game will basically be played 4-on-4, with the centers just standing off to the side. I enjoyed writing that paragraph.

One thing to note coming into this game is, although Portland is just 25-29 overall, they are a pretty good 18-10 at home. It is difficult for any team to win in Portland because, even though they are not very talented, they are the only pro sports team in the state and their fans care about them very much.

Now on to my bold prediction. The matchup that will decide this game will be the Humphries-Aldridge matchup. The team that wins tonight will be the one who has the better power forward. I think Humphries will barely outplay Aldridge, and the Nets will win, 95-93, in a highly competitive game. Make sure to check back on FRWD and follow along on twitter during the game, as we will be posting updates throughout.