Game 41 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers versus New Jersey Nets

Game Time:  7:00 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW

The New Jersey Nets no longer have the distinction of being the worst team in the NBA.  That honor now belongs to the Cleveland Cadaverliers.  But at 10-29 on the season, the Nets aren't far ahead of the pace.  Their quality wins consist of beating Atlanta (twice), Chicago, and these same Portland Trail Blazers.  As you'll recall, when the Nets bagged the Blazers Portland was in the middle of an eastern road swing in which they fell on their swords, got up, stabbed themselves through the eye, turned around, impaled their kidneys, rolled over, committed Hari Kari, then ran and jumped off a cliff onto a pile of thumbtacks.  I believe the Nets were the kidney stab.  Even though they're coming off of a couple of tough losses, the Blazers are in a better place right now.  A let down against New Jersey tonight would rip the band-aids off of all of those old wounds though.  It's an important game for Portland.

The Nets still revolve around Brook Lopez and Devin Harris.  Lopez is slightly off last year's scoring average at 18.2 ppg.  He's taking more shots but his field goal percentage has plummeted from almost 50% to near 45%.  His rebounds have also taken a drastic dive from 8.7 to 5.9.   Harris is right on par with last season (17 ppg, 6.6 ast)  but last season was significantly lower than his production of two years ago (21 ppg, 7 ast), which is what the Nets are banking on.   Star players under-performing is bad news for this club because they're not flush with talent.  Shooting guards Anthony Morrow and Sasha Vujacic and small forward Travis Outlaw make up their next most prominent players, with rebounding power forward Kris Humphries not far behind.  After coming from more talented teams Outlaw and Farmar have finally gotten the green light to shoot in New jersey and they're proving they can't do it.  Outlaw averages 36.5%, Farmar 39%.  Vujacic plays quite well when he gets big minutes...at this point not a problem.  Humphries is inconsistent but can paste a double-double on you.

The Nets' biggest problem is their inability to score.  Only Milwaukee scores fewer points per game.  They're lousy running on the break.  They're lousy scoring in the paint.  They're lousy shooting from the arc.  They're lousy in the light or dark.  They're lousy when they shoot the "J".  They're lousy in most every way. 

Their defense is middle of the road, which by comparison looks stellar.  The only thing they really do wrong is foul a bunch.  Other than that, they're passable.

That makes Portland's job fairly easy tonight:  score and prevent easy buckets.  You can bring a B-level offense and C-level defense and still beat this team.  Plenty of guys over there don't know the difference between a good look and a bad one.  You just can't let them get shots any old fool could make.  Run your own offense and chances are you'll end up with enough points to win.  Bonus points if you paste 30 on them in the first quarter, squelching their chances early.

See the other side of the story at NetsDaily.

I got to this game late so no Jersey Contest form today.  But you can check out the updated scoreboard here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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