Game 11 Preview: Blazers vs. Nets

A Look at the Nets

New Jersey is usually overlooked when talking about the best teams in the East, but though their key stars are aging, they can more than hold their own.  They remind me a little bit of Cleveland in that they can win any type of game.  If you want to run, they'll run.  If you slow it down they'll slice you in the halfcourt.  They have the dangerous combination of shooting a high percentage themselves and keeping you to a low one.  That's going to win a lot of games.  They shoot well from the field, from the arc, and from the line.  There are few glaring weaknesses in their offensive attack.

You know about Jason Kidd.  He's a couple rebounds and one assist shy of averaging a double-double.  You also know about Vince Carter.  He's putting up 29 points per game with nearly 6 assists and 4 boards.  You may not remember 7'0" Nenad Krstic as clearly.  He's now the Nets' second leading scorer at 16.6 a game at 58% shooting and adds 8 boards besides.  He's had a sore knee but will probably play today.  Athletic forward Richard Jefferson might not, as he's working on a sprained ankle.  Thank heavens for small blessings.  The Nets go about 10 deep, have a good mix of size and speed, age and athleticism coming off the bench, and almost all of them can shoot.  With Kidd making everyone better than they otherwise would be, there are few easy moments in a Nets game.  They've been through this before, too, so they're not going to throw games away.

Things I'd like to see:

There are a couple things I could say but at this point, on the last game of an otherwise dreary road trip when everyone is exhausted and you're facing a team that's going to beat you in a straight-up match, there's really only this:

The only way to win this game would be for us to absolutely outscrap and outhustle them every minute we're out there.  New Jersey is very, very solid but not that opportunistic (because like most good teams they don't have to be).  If we see ten different Blazers diving on the floor, throwing themselves around, willing themselves to rebounds, and making the most of small opportunities, if that surprises New Jersey, and if they're somehow having an off night, then I could maybe see us getting some kind of emotional miracle win.  That's if the basketball gods are kind, mind you.  Anything else...running game, halfcourt game, finesse game, power game, playing team ball, exploiting individual matchups...doesn't matter, we're done and we slink our way home winless for the trip and hoping for sunnier days.  This team hasn't lost its talent over the last few days, but it has lost its nerve, its heart, and the spring in its step.  Yes, we can point to injuries and youth, but even though that might make us feel better about the situation it won't change it.  (And if we're saying those things then this game's already over and we might as well go home now).  The bottom line is, if we don't rediscover our nerve, our heart, our spring, and our drive to compete nothing else we do matters.

Win or lose, I hope we see it.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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