This will be the second game of a season opening three game road trip. In the first game Portland played well but too many defensive lapses led to a loss in San Antonio. Well, that and frankly being the second best team on the floor that night...
New Orleans is full of hope. Last season despite injuries, a changing roster, and moving home games, they finished 39-43. This year with a settled home situation, a settled roster, and better health their more optimistic fans are talking of not just a playoff berth but as high as the 5th seed. While from the outside this appears a bit optimistic, stranger things have happened. I think the 41-41 projection more realistic evaluations have pegged them at even looks a bit iffy but it could happen with the continued development of their young players.
They do have reason for optimism. In Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler they have promising young stars to build on and there are some crafty, talented veterans mixed in. With the right breaks, they could see a nice improvement from last year.
Portland matches up well. The projected line-ups look like this:
Portland, Joel Pryzbilla, New Orleans, Tyson Chandler
Chandler only had 13 games with the Hornets last year and was overshadowed in Chicago. He has never averaged double digits in 6 years. Pryzbilla is a better defender and with Chandler's limited production, Joel will be free to roam a bit and help out. However, Chandler is a beast on the boards. Since Portland is already struggling there, this could be a problem. Statistically, this match-up will favor Chandler as he can be expected to ring up 15 - 18 points a night this year and is a better rebounder than Pryzbilla. However, any points the Blazers get from Pryzbilla are pure bonus. He is there to rebound and defend and some of the effect his defense has is not quantifiable by statistics.
Edge: New Orleans
This will be the marquee match-up of the game. For Portland we have the explosive Aldridge, capable of going for 30 and 12, more likely somewhere in the 20 - 25 point range. New Orleans counters with little known David West. He should be better known. Last year, despite injuries, he checked in at a shade over 18 points and 7 boards. Of the two, he is the more established but Aldridge is the more talented. This should be a good battle. This is Aldridge's break-out year and it is expected to be West's as well. This match-up could go either way.
Peja Stojakovich would be the man back when he was with that great-passing Sacramento team. He is still a talented shooter capable of going off on any given night, but night in and night out he is not the go-to guy anymore. He will be the third scorer for the Hornets, much like Webster will for the Blazers. Starting in pre-season, Webster has looked like a different player. He has a nice stroke going, he is more aggressive at taking his shot and making his own. Peja could provide some match-up problems as he is still a dangerous offensive player...but Webster looks lights out so far.
Brandon Roy is still troubled by his heel. He will still crush Peterson. The Hornets have big hopes and plans for Peterson. He simply is outclassed by the reigning Rookie of the Year. Roy is better offensively, defensively, passing, and rebounding.
Jarrett Jack is a fine point guard with a bright future. He will probably never be an all-star...but he will be a solid guy who runs the game, plays defense, and hits the open shot. But he will never be Chris Paul. Paul is a better scorer and passer. He could be an All-Star this year and some people think he will climb into the elite conversation with guys like Nash and Kidd. Perhaps, perhaps not. But he is still better than Jack.
Portland has starter-quality back-ups in Blake and Outlaw. Some people think Frye is in there, I have not seen that yet. The Hornets counter with rookie Julian Wright and a cast of journeyman. If Blake falters the Blazers can bring in Sergio Rodriguez. Expect the second unit to make up ground.
Both Byron Scott and Nate McMillan had lengthy careers as talented role players, with Scott the better scorer by far and McMillan better at everything else. They know the value of specialists and role players and both seem to be doing good jobs of guiding young nucleus's. Is it proximity and homer-ism that make me prefer McMillan?
Prediction: The Hornets are coming off a blow-out win over the woeful Kings while Portland had a good effort but lost in San Antonio. Post-game comments from Roy, Aldridge, and McMillan let us know the Blazers are not thinking they got a moral victory, they are disappointed they lost and think they could have won. I love that. They are not giving anything to anybody, they are out to win every game they can and believe they have a chance any game, anywhere, all season. Portland is too talented, too full of an eagerness to play and has too good of leadership in Roy and Aldridge to take the Hornets lightly. The Hornets may have a very good season but this game goes to Portland. Look for Portland to break the 100 point barrier and get their first road win of the season.
Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers: TV channel, game preview, how to watch live stream - The Portland Trail Blazers visit the Cleveland on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
4 months ago