Preview: Portland vs. New Jersey

4-7. Not the record expected at this point in the season. A team full of promise and hope. A team with 3 big stars and a roster of talented subs. 1 star injured.

This is the story for Portland and New Jersey both. They have identical records and similar stories. After the draft is was expected Portland would be driven by big-name stars Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge while New Jersey would ride the talents of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Now, a month in we know Oden is starting play next year and Carter is out for a few more games probably. Both teams could reasonably expect to come in with 7-4 records yet both are 4-7. Both teams have had problems scoring. The question is...are they headed the same direction?

New Jersey has started 8 different people. The only locks seem to be Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson. at least until Carter returns. Krstic has started the next most, 8 times, but he is averaging but 16 minutes. The Nets are a team in turmoil. They scored all of 69 against the Boston juggernaut. The Heat held them to the low 90s. If they score 100 they get nose bleeds from the altitude.

How is this possible on a team where Kidd is averaging 10 assists a game? Easy...they shoot 43%. Well, Portland has given up 70% + shooting for a quarter (the 4th against Charlotte) and a half (the 2nd against the 76ers). So this might be a chance for New Jersey to get healthy.

Also, Kidd is exactly the type of point guard that has caused the Blazers fits in the last few games. He can penetrate at will which gets their defense scrambling, leads to open shots and then offensive rebounds. The Blazers have to adjust their defense to stop that penetration and must figure out a way to control the defensive boards.

At the offensive end they need to work more cohesively. Webster needs to be more aggressive at driving more and standing around in the corner waiting to launch 3s less. I am still a fan, I just hope he gets over his struggles soon. They need to be more aggressive in looking for Aldridge, also, and Roy needs to get involved in the offense earlier.

Portland should win the game...but it is not a huge upset if they lose and if their psyche is shot, they could even get blown out. But I predict a win, say in the 6 - 8 point range inside the last couple minutes.

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