18-12 Portland at 16-16 Utah

Portland has beaten Utah twice in the last 13 games...both times without LaMarcus Aldridge. Tonight they will have another obstacle...Coach McMillan will not be at the game. If I thought he would ever read a humble piece like this I would extend my condolences to him. Tough time of year for something like that.

With that said, a lot of people expect Portland to win this game. They are red hot and Utah is ice cold, having lost 2 straight and just 3-11 in the last 14 games. In addition, Utah is a team in disarray. They traded Giricek for Kyle Korver after the latest blow-up between Sloan and a player. That is a help to Portland as it removes another zone-busting shooter from the Jazz line-up.

But it does not solve a couple of their other problems. First off, Carlos Boozer feasts on the Blazers...he is a beast inside. He seems to have his way, scoring and rebounding almost at will. Unfortunately for Portland, Aldridge is struggling a lot right now, so an already bad match-up gets worse. Deron Williams is the tough type of point guard for Portland as he is excellent at penetrating at will, creating havoc for the Blazers' zone.

If Roy continues his outstanding play, Webster, Jones, and Outlaw are all hitting their shots, and Aldridge snaps out of his funk the Blazers will hit 14. I think it somewhat more likely that they will find that all good things come to an end as Utah remembers they are Utah and regains their winning ways. I really hope not, I seriously dislike them, but this has all the earmarks of one of those games where Portland ends one run...but they will win many more this season.

Philadelphia 72, Portland 97

Early in the season there was a game I fearlessly predicted, "Portland is a much better team than Philadelphia and should win. If they do not, for whatever reason, then the road struggles will become a thousand pound gorilla and they will struggle on the road for the rest of the season. Conversely, if they they should...then that will build their confidence and lead to a few road wins this season, which they will need to reach their post-season berth which I expect for them.

This is one of those rare nights where if Portland plays an average game, they win by a lot. If they implode, they should still win, just it will be close. They are that much better than the 76ers.Portland by 10+

Everything was in place. Portland was up by 25 at one point. They led by 17 going into the 4th quarter. They were on their way to winning that game. Fresh off the confidence-builder of their win, they would then beat Washington and Charlotte on the road, come home and close it out against New Jersey and be on a huge run. They would have been in the thick, believe it or not, at that point of the division race.

But we all know what happened. Portland had one of those young-team collapses. They gave back all 17 points and more, lost that game, and went into a swoon where they did, indeed, sweep the remainder of the road trip...except they did it in reverse, lost to a bad New Jersey team and the season looked like it was going down the tubes.

Of course, starting with Travis "Charles" Outlaw's game-winner against Memphis, they returned to being the team I thought they were. They have run off 12 straight coming into this game which should be a "revenge game" where a high-flying Blazers squad runs a bad 76ers team off the court.

They finished the first quarter with a 7-2 run to take a 21-16 lead. The rout was on...except then something happened. Philadelphia went on a 16-2 run of their own to close out the second quarter and go into the break with a 45-36 lead. Portland was on the verge of being blown out themselves in a game they should win and win handily. It is a game they should have been "up" for and been blowing out the 76ers. Now they were down 9 and heading into the 3rd quarter, a season-long bug-a-boo. Portland needed someone to step up.

Enter Roy, Blake and Aldridge. Aldridge scored early, Blake hit a pair of 3s and a short jumper and Roy added 9 points. Portland closed to within 63-62 after 3 and were entering their time.

During their win streak...yes, and even before...the 4th quarter has been their time. During the losing streak they often would make up huge deficits but just fall short after digging too big a hole in the 3rd quarter. During the win streak they have played the 3rd close and won in the 4th. This night they played the 3rd well and won the 4th, and not by a little bit.

They scored the first 18 led by Outlaw scoring 7 of the first 10. they never let up. Their offense was explosive (35) and their defense the best they have offered this season (9). This was the intensity I expected much earlier in the game.

And it was that magic 13th game...the last in the best win streak Portland has put together in quite some time. It has been fun to watch and there will be plenty more wins this year...I just don't think I see the next one coming again in Utah.