Preview: 3-3 Blazers vs. (4-1) Detroit

After tomorrow, the Pistons figure to roll in 5-1 to visit Portland. Their only loss was a choke job to the otherwise winless Bulls. Detroit looks to be in fine form.

Stop me if you have heard this one before...the Pistons don't rely on one or two big stars, they use balance to get it done. 4 guys score in double figures, none of them over 19.2 per game. They generate offense with team play and passing...2 guys are averaging 6.8 and 7.0 assists.

Rasheed Wallace is a familiar sight to Blazer fans. Averaging about 16 points and 7 boards, he figures to demolish Frye who seems to score 4 - 6 points a night and then go hide on the bench.

Advantage: Detroit

Power Forward
There was a time when Antonio McDyess was one of the most promising forwards in the entire league, back when he was with the up and coming Nuggets. Injury took its toll and now he is just a well-traveled place holder, though still capable of a big game. Normally he will get 10 - 15 points and do some rebounding. Aldridge, meanwhile, is playing very well. He has to have his confidence boosted by the last 2 games and should come out strong.

Advantage: Portland

Small Forward
Whither Tayshaun Prince? Is he the stud carrying the Pistons on his back and dropping 30+ point nights on people? Or is he the 5 point scorer of a couple nights ago? Both...and neither. Prince knows his role and this year, for whatever reason, he is struggling to mesh with the team. This is very unusual for him and I doubt it will last much longer. Meanwhile, Webster is coming off his worst night of the year. He took just 3 shots, missed half his free two struggling guys. It will be interesting to see which team involves their guy in the offense better. That team has a great shot at the win.

Edge: Even

Shooting Guard
As a general rule, this position is the Blazers biggest advantage. Roy does so many things well. He scores in the mid to high teens, he rebounds, he passes. Even when he runs into a shooting guard who outscores him, his box-score filling performances give him an advantage. The Pistons are one of the few teams that counter with someone who is his equal or perhaps even superior. Richard "Rip" Hamilton might be that guy. Roy and Hamilton have very, very similar stat lines. This should be a very entertaining battle.

Edge: Even

Point Guard
Steve Blake would need to be Brandon Roy to give the Blazers an equal to Chauncey Billups. Billups and Hamilton are pretty much clones of each other. This could be a long night for Blake as both guys he might face are solid, solid defenders.

Edge: Detroit

Detroit does not have anyone particularly explosive...but they have 4 guys who will each get 5 - 10 points, averaging about 33 points per game. Meanwhile Portland has the explosive Jack, the defensive Przybilla, and the up and down Outlaw. It depends on which Portland bench shows up. If Jack unleashes 20 again and Outlaw has his breakout game this could be a huge advantage for Portland. Conversely, if Outlaw gets lost and Jack comes back to earth it could be a huge advantage for the Pistons.

This game could go just about any way. Portland should come in confident and rested. Roy, Aldridge and Webster all need to have big games and they need to score when the opportunity presents itself. Detroit is, as they always seem to be, an excellent defensive team and points might be difficult to come by.

If Portland plays their best game they can run it to 4-0 at home, if they fail to box out and don't pass to the open man, it could be a long night. I will revisit this after the Pistons-Sonics game when I see where the Pistons head is at.

Post-Sonic add: Detroit started fast, almost ran Seattle off the court, then gave it back, letting Seattle tie it with about 2:35 left in the game. Seattle, however, could not finish. Portland can because they have the talent in Roy, Aldridge and Webster to create the easy scoring opportunities they need to at the end of the game. I don't think Billups and Prince will both have the bad games they had against Seattle, but neither will Hamilton have the transcendant game.

Portland should win this one, but it will be a close game.

Blazers 92, Mavericks 81

I will admit to being surprised. I thought the Mavericks might come in a bit fired up. And there was a fired-up team on the floor. They came out scoring and scoring and scoring...fortunately, it was the Blazers. They tallied 28, probably their biggest first quarter. How did it happen? Well, they went to Aldridge regularly and Roy did some shooting to. With their stars tallying 8 each in the first quarter, the Blazers took a 6 point lead into the second.

One thing I thought the Blazers needed to pull of the upset was a strong game from Outlaw and another was some work on the offensive boards. Outlaw had 7 first half rebounds and both he and Przybilla worked the offensive boards, though the rebounds seldom led to points. Even though they did not often score the second chance points, they made Dallas work on defense and psychologically, getting the stop, then seeing your opponent get a second chance is tough.

Meanwhile, Roy added 6 points in the second and Aldridge added 4. After a fast start, (7 points in the first 7:32), Nowitzki still had just 7 points. Portland took a 7 point lead into the half and for the second night in a row had 49 points at the break.

The third quarter was a good one for the Blazers as Roy scored, distributed the ball, and the Blazers extended to a 13 point lead, though it was again a slow scoring one. Somehow they were keeping the Mavericks offense in check.

The 4th quarter was all about Roy as he tallied 11 of the Blazers 21 points. For the first time in the game Dallas outscored the Blazers in a quarter and for the first time they hit the 25 point mark...but it was just too much Roy as he had a career high 32 points and another 7 assists. For those keeping track, that means (3 pointers and converted 3 point plays not included) he was responsible for 46 of the Blazers 92 points. That is some star power.

Meanwhile, Maverick studs Nowitzki and Terry had 11 and 16 points respectively, and both shot poorly.

I am again disappointed in my lack of faith. Everything was in place to predict the upset and I just could not pull the trigger. But Roy had a huge game, Aldridge had an "average" game (18 pts, 8 reb, 50% shooting), and Outlaw had a better game than he has recently (14 pts on 5-8 shooting, 10 boards, 4 assists). This was what needed to happen for the Blazers to win and they made it happen. 3-3 feels pretty good, especially entering a stretch where they can reasonably be expected to go 6-3 or even 7-2. Next up: the Pistons this coming Tuesday. We will see if they can keep their momentum going.

Preview; 4-1 Dallas at 2-3 Portland

Dallas is coming off an emotional road win over the team that upset them in last years playoffs. Portland is coming off a more difficult than expected win over Memphis at home. This has all the makings of an upset opportunity for Portland. Unfortunately, it is not going to happen.

For whatever reason the Blazers insist on running their first couple of plays for Channing Frye. These are also (thankfully) usually the last two plays they run for him. Fortunately, they only have to contend with DeSagana Diop, a guy who will play defense and rebound but pretty much only scores on broken plays and offensive rebounds.

Edge: Even

Power Forward
Dirk Nowitski was the MVP last year. His numbers are down a bit this year and he has struggled against Portland in the last few meetings. On the other side of the ball, this is one of Portland's strongest positions. Aldridge is coming off a huge game and this will be a good opportunity for him to step up and show he is a prime time player. On the down side, at times he is sometimes foul prone so that might be a concern. He is good enough to play it even on a good night or even outscore his opponent if Portland feeds him the ball, runs plays for him, and gets out in transition. Still, when you are up against the reigning is a tough night.

Edge: Dallas

Small Forward
I am not convinced Portland knows how good Webster can be. They hide him for far too much of the game. If they ran a few plays for him and looked for him a bit more often he could be a 20 - 25 point scorer. Instead he is locked in about 16 - 18 points almost every night. Across the way we find Josh Howard, the Maverick's leading scorer this year at 24 per game.

Edge: Dallas

Shooting Guard
As always, Roy is the Blazers best player. Stackhouse can score with anybody but Roy is a better all-around player. This will be a fun battle to watch.

Edge: Portland

Point Guard
Devin Harris reportedly will not be there so Jason Terry returns to the starting line-up more than likely. Terry, like Jack, has exploded in a reserve role. But whether starting or coming off the bench, he is lethal. Blake is a solid point guard who gets the Blazers into their offense well and does a good job of distributing the ball but he is not in Terry's class.

Edge: Dallas

Jarrett Jack has been tearing it up since being moved to the bench. He relishes that role. Unfortunately, the rest of the bench has been struggling. James Jones is out with knee issues (where have I heard that before?) and Outlaw is struggling to find his shot. The Mavericks are missing Eddie Jones and with Terry in the starting line-up they lose a lot of punch. But they do have solid players in Devean George and Brandon Bass and the rest of their team fills their roles well.

Edge: even

This is a good opportunity for the Blazers to pull off the upset. But to do so, they have to play their zone better than they did against the Grizzlies. Dallas simply has too many good shooters to get away with leaving them open. Defensively, if the continue playing their swiss-cheese defense they could see Dallas eclipse the 110 mark easily.

On the other side of the ball, Golden State showed the way. Dallas is susceptible to penetration. It gets them scrambling and they give up a lot of second chance opportunities when someone penetrates. If Portland's guards, Jack, Blake, and Roy, penetrate and their bigs crash the boards they can wreak havoc and put a lot of points on the board. This might be a game where Sergio Rodriguez can do major damage with his ability to get inside almost at will. Webster needs to hit his open shots, which he should get plenty of, and Aldridge and Przybilla need to work the boards.

If those things happen and Outlaw comes out of his funk you will see an upset win by Portland. Otherwise, look for Dallas to win by double digits.