Chris Bosh seems to have taken a step backwards but Jose Calderon has been a revelation. They are almost the epitome of an "average" team...they are 18-17 overall, 9-9 on the road and 9-8 at home. If Roy is healthy it will not matter a lot whether Blake is or not...Jack can play off Roy quite well and Rodriguez has shown he is a capable back-up at the point or shooting guard. Portland has the talent and desire to win this game and should come away with a win.
9-11 at home, 9-6 on the road...and Portland is a better team. But they still have Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, 3 guys who can take over games and win them all but single-handed. Portland should win and win by 6 - 10 points...and they will if they can keep Kidd shooting a poor percentage and contain Carter and Jefferson.
Much like New Jersey, Boston has 3 guys who can take over a game and pull it out on their own merits. However, they also have talented role players who give them a lot of help. Boston should win this game, though Portland certainly has the talent to pull out the upset. This will be the toughest game of the trip to win.
With the Big Offensive Foul the Heat were awful. Without him they are even worse. Miami has Dwayne Wade and 11 stiffs with Shaq out injured. Frankly, should Portland lose, that would be a disaster. Sure, it is a road game...but they have too much talent to lose to this Miami team no matter where the game is played.
Another Florida game, this one a little tougher. On the surface, Orlando is the favorite. Their 23-14 record is strong, they have one of this year's most improved, somewhat dominant players in Dwight Howard. They have on again, off again superstar in waiting Jameer Nelson. They have all-around scorer Hedo Turkoglu. Their role players step up, much like Portlands. This is a tough, dangerous team. With a 7-8 home record....they are much better on the road (16-6) than they are at home. Weird. Still, they being at home I make Orlando a slight favorite, but if Portland is playing well this game is eminently winnable.
As a young team with no expectations at the beginning of the season, expectations were light. As the team has improved, won a lot of games they weren't expected to, and have done it with a roster not much was expected of this year. A lot of that has been built on an impressive home record but their road record is improving too. Still, Atlanta is a step or three behind the Blazers. They have the advantage of being at home and catching Portland at the tail end of a long, tough road trip. Portland should come in with 2 or 3 wins and leave with 3 or 4.
Early in the season I thought this would be the first Blazer road win. I was not super surprised they lost but I was surprised at the way they lost. As the season has gone on the Hornets have proven to be better than I was ready to believe...but still surprisingly mediocre at home, just 9-7. The road is tough on young teams...so goes the excuse. Portland has been proving for over a month now that they might be physically young but they are competitively mature. This game is a toss-up where the advantage goes to the home team. New Orleans gets a further advantage by catching Portland in the final game of a long road trip. I suspect they will pull out the victory.
This road trip will be a great test of where Portland is at. If they are ready to not just get to the playoffs but actually be a threat they will go 4-3 or even 5-2. 3-4 would be a good record on this trip. 2-5 is about the worst I can conceive of them doing and winning no or 1 games would be a disaster. I look forward to watching this team develop. I would love to see 1 - 2 games where Webster steps up, a couple more where Jones does, and see Outlaw and Jack come strong night after night. Still, we all know it is up to Roy and Aldridge to carry this team, particularly on the road.
One final note. I have been hearing the TNT announcers talk about Roy for MVP this year. I think that is pretty premature. If he comes out and guides Portland to a 6-2 or 6-1 record on this trip...I might even get on board that. I don't expect it to happen, I think it is a bit too soon. But this is a great opportunity to watch Portland develop even a little bit more. Let's enjoy the ride.