4-13 Miami at 6-12 Portland

When the schedule was released, this game must have had the suits at TNT salivating. A declining but still popular Shaquille O' Neal against #1 pick and young stud Greg Oden up front while 2005 Finals MVP Dwayne Wade runs into 2006 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy. Marquee match-ups everywhere, with possible Most Improved Player of the Year LaMarcus Aldridge added into the mix.

Lo and behold we get here and Portland has no Oden, Wade was injured early and (for him) pedestrian since coming back...though any team that would not LOVE to have him in their back court is insane...but his "mere" 20 points a game has not helped Miami all that much, O'Neal is no longer a 25 and 10 guy, now just 15 and 7.5, and the marquee value has kind of disappeared as Miami is on a 3 game losing streak and Portland just finished a 4 game losing streak with their last-second win in Memphis. But it is still on TNT. One suspects the geniuses that scheduled this game for there are no longer quite as happy.

Early in the season I would have projected Portland to win in a walk. They are the more talented team, they are hungrier, they have more to prove. Przybilla and Frye have the defensive chops to give O'Neal problems, Miami has nobody to stop Aldridge or Roy, and only at point guard would Miami have a marked advantage.

But then Portland went into the tank. Their road woes affected their home game and they dropped 3 very winnable home games I thought they would have won. They look like what most people seem to think they of the worst teams in the league.

But Miami is still worse, at least right now. Maybe after Wade hits his stride that won't be true, but right now...they are worse. Portland should win this game, and handily. They play better at home, they have everything they need to run Miami off the court. I should make the call for a blow-out.

I just don't know if that road win over Memphis is enough to get them where they need to be.

Outlaw has been studly lately, Aldridge continues to be the man night after night, and Jack has settled comfortably into his 6th man role.

But Webster continues to struggle, Roy has had but one good game in his last several, and the Blazers are just not consistent. You don't know from night to night if you will get 20 and 10 from Outlaw...or a 2 - 11 shooting 5 point stinker. Webster might give you 15...or 2. Roy might be 9-15 for 25 points and a few boards, or he might go 4-18. There is no consistency so it makes it hard to predict what should happen.

Somehow, the doubt comes up in the back of the mind that they will let Wade, O'Neal, or Davis go off for a monster game and find a way to lose to a pretty bad Miami team that is struggling mightily.

But I am going with the homer card. Let's say what should happen will, Portland win.

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