Tonight's 7:30 p.m. tilt between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors is a multifaceted landmark.
--It's the 82nd and final game of the 2012-13 season for the Trail Blazers
--It's Fan Appreciation Night at the Rose Garden
--It's Blazer's Edge Night...the night when 750 kids and their chaperons will descend on the Rose Garden. These folks would normally not get to see a Blazers game in person but you made it possible through your generous donations. This event has grown bigger and bigger throughout the years and the 750 mark is a fantastic achievement.
With that in mind, let's do this preview for all the kids who will be coming. Here are some things to watch for!
The best feature of this game BY FAR is the point guard matchup. The Blazers start a guy you may have heard of. Damian Lillard? He's going to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year and it won't even be close. This guy can slice, dice, hop, chop, and most of all he shoots the three-pointer. Lillard's already broken the record for the most three-pointers made by a rookie in the history of the league. Last night in L.A. he broke the Trail Blazers record for most three-pointers made in a single season. He's not the kind of guy to hang around the three-point arc waiting for somebody to pass to him either. He takes it off the dribble, makes the defender think he's going to drive to the hoop, and then WHOOP! Aw dang, he just hit ANOTHER three!
But Golden State's point guard, Steph Curry, is also a three-point master. Remember how we said Lillard set the rookie record for threes? Guess who he beat out for that honor? Yup. Steph Curry. He's also trying to break the single-season three-point record for the whole NBA. Curry can drop 40 points on you as easy as eating a danish. In fact he could probably drop 40 on you while eating a danish.
Lillard grew up in Oakland where the Warriors play. He seems to play his best against them. Curry wants to give that right back. Getting to see them play each other is a special event.
At the shooting guard spot you're going to see a matchup of two more promising young players. Golden State's Klay Thompson is a tall, versatile guard just coming into his own. He's one of the players you don't notice but that other teams would love to have. Portland is starting rookie Will Barton at the shooting guard position because regular starter Wesley Matthews has an ankle injury. Barton is to athleticism what Cheetos are to orange powder. He's covered with it, leaving a trail of it behind him wherever he goes. Seeing Will Barton dunk is worth the price of admission all on its own.
But that's where the fun ends for the Blazers. Due to even more injuries they're starting a frontcourt of Victor Claver, J.J. Hickson, and Meyers Leonard. Each of those guys is exciting in their own way. Claver is 6'10" tall but runs around like a much smaller player. Hickson is a rebounding maching. Leonard is a true 7-footer with a nice shooting touch. But they all have trouble defending. Golden State plays David Lee at power forward and he can score the lights out. Rookie Harrison Barnes has come on as a scorer and rebounder at small forward, and center Festus Ezeli (yes, that's really his name) can also rebound like a fiend. Portland has to be worried about Ezeli getting more rebounds than Hickson, Lee scoring everywhere, and Barnes overpowering Claver.
Even worse, Golden State has a nice bench with combination-guard Jarrett Jack scoring the lights out and power forward Carl Landry beating up everybody in his way. The Blazers are already starting all their former bench players. They don't have much firepower or bulk left in reserve.
In short, Golden State may have too many big players and too deep of a bench for Portland to cope with. On the other hand, since their playoff spot is already secure the Warriors might not play their main guys as long, meaning the Blazers could find themselves on more equal footing.
Either way, this promises to be a game full of offense, offense, and more offense. The Warriors score over 100 points per game and they love the fast break. They'll run all night long if the Blazers let them. Of course that would probably mean Portland was running right back on them, leaving Lillard and Barton to dunk and flip amazing layups on the break. I don't know about you, but I'm OK with that!
When the Warriors aren't running they're shooting. They score few points close to the basket. They prefer to let fly with the long ball. They can hit from out there too. But the Blazers also like to shoot long and don't mind shooting quickly. That means this will be as close to video-game basketball as you can get.
The Blazers have to watch out for a couple things if they're going to win this game.
1. They have to take care of the ball. If Portland commits turnovers Golden State will run away with this game. They'll intercept passes and dunk the ball quicker than you can say "Uncle Festus".
2. The Blazers have to watch out for offensive rebounds. The Warriors aren't the strongest rebounding team in the league but they've got some nice individual rebounders. They're already a threat to score 100. If you let them rebound their own misses that's going to balloon to 110. Unless LaMarcus Aldridge comes back from injury full force I'm not sure the Blazers have 110 points in them.
If the Blazers can do those two things then they have a chance. A hot streak here and there, a little Lillard magic, and this could go Portland's way. It's their last chance to shine, their last chance to give the home folks something to remember. I think they'll be up to the challenge.
Enjoy the game, everybody! We'll have our usual recap afterwards and then recap the season during the next few days before transitioning into talk about the draft, free agency, and what's sure to be a busy summer for the Blazers.
I'll be at this one, by the way. If anybody wants to drift up to Section 306, Row K, Seat 13 and say hello to the guy in the Blazer's Edge tee, feel free. Until then, enjoy the game and Go Blazers!
Golden State Of Mind will cover the Warriors for you.
I can't do Jersey Contest stuff on the road so you'll have to wait until Sunday to get your final month's winner. But meanwhile here's the last Jersey Contest Form for the year. Good luck to all!