Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets (-7, 201.5 o/u)
The Portland Trail Blazers (50-26, 19-18 away) are finishing the season in fine fashion. The squad, which is battling for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, clinched a Northwest Division title last Friday with a 107-77 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The next night, the Trail Blazers beat the New Orleans Pelicans, 99-90.
“It’s something to be proud of, which we are, but we’re not done,” said Portland head coach Terry Stotts. “We’ve got to continue to get better and prepare for the playoffs.”
Up next for Portland is a makeup game at Brooklyn Nets (35-41, 16-20 home). Originally scheduled for January, the cross-country trip isn’t the best-case scenario for the players, and Portland is opting to leave some key personnel at home, including power forward and leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (23.4 PPG), center Chris Kaman, and small forward Nicolas Batum.
“It’s a long flight for one game,” said Aldridge.
As for the Nets, the team had been on a roll, winning six straight and ten of 12 before getting demolished by the Hawks, 131-99, in Atlanta on the weekend. The loss exposed some weaknesses in the Nets’ defense, which allowed the Hawks to shoot 59.8-percent from the floor (including 17 of 33 from beyond the arc). Brooklyn also turned the ball over 21 times.
“They beat us, from start to finish,” said Nets head coach Lionel Hollins. “It was a good whipping. There’s nothing else that I can say. They dominated the game.”
With just six games left in the regular season, Brooklyn is entering crunch time. The team is currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, half a game up on eighth-place Boston and 1.5 up on ninth-place Miami.
“It’s still back to what I said before,” Hollins said. “We have to win.”
Considering Portland is a 50-win team, being a seven-point dog is too much, even without Aldridge, Kaman, and Batum. That’s why taking the Blazers and the points (+7) is the play.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr: Deron Williams) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)