Game 2 of the Portland Trail Blazers' pre-season schedule commences at 7:00 p.m. as the Blazers face the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center. The game will be telecast locally on CSNNW and nationally on NBA TV.
Faced with a rebuilding project of their own this summer following the departure of franchise guard Steve Nash, the Suns opted to go in a direction diametrically opposed to that of the Blazers. They didn't get their hands on the ultra-chic premium players on the market but they acquired plenty of "best available" veterans to bolster their lineup. Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, even the aging Jermaine O'Neal...you know who these guys are. Aggregated they earn around $18 million per year. The Suns are hoping that mid-range contracts for somewhat-above-mid-range players (if things work out) will keep win totals reasonable and fans interested.
In their first pre-season outing against the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix took as many punches as they dished out. They defended well enough on the perimeter but took multiple body blows in the paint from DeMarcus Cousins and company. They grabbed several shopping carts worth of offensive rebounds but gave up just as many. They earned 26 free throw attempts but gave up 34. Their most egregious fault was not getting back in transition, losing 27 fast break points to the Kings. Again a mirror opposite of the fast-yet-untrained Blazers, Phoenix has plenty of experience and skill but one wonders about speed and commitment. It'll be interesting to see which team is able to play to its strengths and/or take away more from the opponent tonight.
The pre-season won't provide any earth-shattering conclusions for either of these teams but here are some things to watch during this game.
1. This will be a nice test for Portland's frontcourt as a whole. Slapping them up against Dwight Howard in Game 1 would have been like testing an egg carton's crush resistance with a dump truck. Phoenix has quality NBA players up and down the big positions but none of them is the kind of dominant matchup that'll break you in two. Marcin Gortat and O'Neal will be interesting covers for Portland's centers...contrasting styles and skills with good size and plenty of know-how. The Blazers need to be able to handle this kind of guy in the middle this season. Center domination for the Suns tonight would be a bad sign for Portland. Keep an eye on how Meyers Leonard responds. Joel Freeland too, if he slides over to center at all.
Scola, Beasley, Jared Dudley, and even young Markieff Morris will provide good, but not overwhelming, tests at forward as well.
2. Damian Lillard...can he repeat his performance from Game 1? He has a couple interesting matchups of his own. He'll need to show he can stay in front of Dragic on defense. He also gets to pit himself against fellow rookie point guard Kendall Marshall. Those matchups should provide him another chance to shine. What will he do with it?
3. How does Portland's depth stack up against the superior depth of the Suns? Can the Blazer reserves make any inroads, or even just hold serve until the starters get back in?
4. If the Suns are willing to let you fast break, can the Blazers take advantage? It's a three-step process: defend, secure the rebound, and run like heck. The Blazers have got the third part down. Los Angeles was a little lackadaisical on the boards the other night. If Phoenix gets tougher, trying to repeat their offensive rebounding performance from their first game, do the Blazers have the will and technique to rip it away from them?
5. What about the bubble forwards? Watching Adam Morrison was interesting on Wednesday. Watching Luke Babbitt was painful. Watching Victor Claver was half fun, half amusing. What will we really see from these guys and who will make the team?
Discuss the possibilities-including your own things to watch for--here. Join us for the GameDay Thread as tip-off approaches!