Eastern Road Trip

I will not be able to follow the progress on the upcoming Eastern swing, a fact that leaves me a little bit sad. Be that as it may, here is a down and dirty, quick look at what I think could/should happen:


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.

New Jersey

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.

New Orleans

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 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.

Portland 109, Golden State 91

Professional sports are tricky. Every so often a pro football game will turn on 1 or 2 plays...a vastly superior team loses when their punt returner inexplicably muffs a punt with no opposing players close to him, the other team scores, kick off and the ball bounces funny, they recover...suddenly the bad team has a lead and the good team starts pressing, the outcome is unpredictable. The same holds true for the NBA. Boston, one of the elite teams in the league...a team that wins pretty much all the games they should, wins most of the "toss-up" games, and even pulls out the occasional game you would think they would lose...had a night where one guy is injured, one guy misses a few shots he normally makes...and loses at home to a very pedestrian Charlotte team. Things happen.

All told, that makes it hard to be accurate in predictions. Sure, you can say what SHOULD happen...but will it? When the Blazers play Seattle, for instance, they are playing a team with weak interior defense. It is a team Aldridge should have a monster game against...but doesn't. Then against San Antonio, a team with great interior defense, he comes out and looks like the best player on the floor. Blake comes out one game and takes 2 shots. The next game he takes 14...and makes 10 of them. One night outlaw will take 10 of those drive/step-back foul line extended jumpers he loves and miss them all. The next game they will drop.

So when I make my predictions I typically leave a little bit of wiggle room. Here is what the Blazers PROBABLY need to do to win...though they could win if this doesn't happen but something unexpected does...say Przybilla taking and making 8 or 10 shots or Blake exploding or Webster showing his potential...but those possibilities exist. The difference between the playoff teams and the lottery teams is those unforeseen things and how regularly they occur.

With that said, I think perhaps the most accurate prediction I have ever made was in regard to the Golden State game. I was able to listen to about the first quarter and I was loving it. Portland was controlling the role players, forcing Jackson and Davis to shoot low percentages, and Przybilla was controlling the inside. It was textbook for beating Golden State.

Portland exploded out of the gate behind Przybilla. Offensive rebound, hit a couple free throws. Defensive rebound, dunk. Steal. That is the first three possessions of the game. All Joel, all the time. Then Webster and Aldridge each threw down dunks. Then, after an Aldridge post-score, Przybilla dunked. It was awesome. Portland was doing exactly what they needed to do...they were taking advantage of the weak interior defense of Golden State. That caused the outside to open up, resulting in wide open looks. For the quarter Portland had 5 dunks and 4 3s. That is about as good as inside out can get and the 30-14 lead looked like it might only grow. Meanwhile they were forcing Jackson and the Warriors into tough shots which were not falling.

And this was a game where the unexpected was happening. Roy was having a slow scoring night, one suspects due to his sore tailbone. Aldridge was having a typical night...9 first half points. They got a few from Jones, a few from Outlaw...but Przybilla had 8 and Blake 20. That is a couple good games for Blake in just one half.

And they would need it. One way to change a rocking Rose Garden enjoying a 13 point lead is to have your glue, Brandon Roy, fall to the ground in pain with a hyper-extended knee. But that is just what happened with a little over a minute left. The Blazers still pushed it to 15 at half-time but the worry was there. Portland without Roy or Aldridge for a game or 2 can survive. Portland without Roy or Aldridge for an extended period of time is going to lose a lot of games.

Good news arrived with the start of the second half. Roy returned to the floor. After Biedrins hit a shot Portland reeled off 10 straight points. In no uncertain terms they were telling Golden State the night belonged to Portland. The Blazers had an impressive 66-43 lead. By the end of the quarter they were up a sawbuck, 84-64. Roy wasn't scoring much...but everyone else was. Except Blake, out with a calf injury...not a good sight.

The 4th quarter was close-out time. Even Green got into the game and tried a few shots. It was a blow-out win and Portland showed they had what it takes to win a game wire to wire. It was among the more dominating performances I have seen since the glory days of Kersey, Porter, Duckworth, Williams and Drexler.

Davis and Jackson combined for 9 points on 3-15 shooting. Barnes was their leading scorer with just 14. They shot just 39% while Portland shot 46% and Portland out rebounded them by 8. When your best players aren't scoring, nobody steps up, and you can't keep your opponent off the boards (12 offensive rebounds for Portland) or make up the difference in squandered possessions somehow, the result is going to be a blow-out.

Portland, on the other hand, had their stars step up...sure, Roy only scored 8 points (on just 12 shots), but he also tallied 8 boards and 8 assists. Aldridge only scored 19...but Jones and Webster combined for 32 on 11-15 shooting...including an astonishing 7-11 from long distance. Well, astonishing except when compared to Blake's 5-6 from downtown...

In other words, everyone contributed. Przybilla had "just" 10 points...but he added 10 boards. Nothing that really "stands out" as being spectacular...he had a good but not unusual 2 blocks...nobody had a huge number of assists, and outside of Blake's' 24 points on 8-10 shooting nobody really had a transcendent game that made you sit up and take notice....nothing like Webster's 24 point quarter, anything like that. This was just a good team dominating another good team. It was beautiful.

Speaking of Webster, it was nice to see him have back to back good games. It provides hope that he has taken that next step in his evolution as a useful starter who has a valuable contribution from a scoring standpoint more than once a week into someone who night in and night out is in the low to mid double digits with occasional 20 - 25 point nights when needed. He has not often this season rung up a good night in the game subsequent to a good game so it was unusual...but welcome.

Oh, and...Portland is all alone in First Place. Even I, the most optimistic of fans, did not see that one coming.