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Game 8 Preview: Blazers vs. Timberwolves

There's no need to do a full preview of a team we played barely over a week ago.  If you want the full story you can read the still-applicable preview here.  Only the stats have changed.   Some early-season aberrations have smoothed out but the team remains basically the same.

Short version of who they are:

--It's all about KG
--Their other players have good offensive skills, but with a couple exceptions aren't good defenders.
--They're also a very poor rebounding team despite Garnett's heroic efforts.
--They don't pass the ball that well and will turn it over if pressured
--Add to that:  Outside of Mike James they're not hitting at all from deep right now.

Short version of what I'd like to see:

--Alert, active zone defense to protect the middle and force them to shoot long
--A ton of contested shots (Those will be missed by most of these guys.  They're nice offensive players but outside of KG hardly superstar quality.)
--Easy buckets off turnovers to boost scoring
--Domination on the boards
--If you can stay in front of Garnett without fouling him he might score 20 but he won't beat you by himself.  If you foul him not only will he score 30, all your big men will be on the bench and the middle will open up for all their other players.

The early season wins have been fantastic and the team has played better than I anticipated was possible (this soon anyway).  But we're showing all the hallmarks of being a young team and young teams almost always do better at home than on the road.  I'm guessing this could hold true for us for some or all of the following reasons:

--We're winning these games on a lot of emotion, and it's hard to get that same emotion in a hostile environment.  The exhilarating roar of the home crowd is a sweet wine that pleases the young palate.  The joy of silencing an enemy crowd is a much drier vintage that only the mature connoisseur can appreciate.  We just ain't there yet.  

--We're winning these games by getting a lot of calls and hitting a ton of free throws.  Even well-deserved whistles are harder to get on the road.

--All these wonderful comebacks make for great water cooler stories, but if you want to know why we're getting down early a good part of it is because when teams focus on us we have a hard time executing our game plan.  After they're up double digits a lot of these teams have taken their foot off the gas, especially when the second units come in.  This is not atypical in the NBA.  We used to do it all the time when we were good.  I'm not saying we haven't earned our wins, nor that the team isn't really improved.  Heck, they did the same thing last year and we lost 3 out of every 4 games anyway.  But the wins we have gotten, especially the one over the Hornets which got national attention, make it less likely that teams are going to take us for granted.  And they're less likely to ease up at home anyway, with the crowd behind them and all.  (Especially so tonight, as Minnesota will remember what we did to them in the Roach Mote...uhhhh, Rose Garden.)  We're likely to see first quarter-type efforts sustained longer on this road trip.

--We're still injured.  We better get a lot more help from the likes of Webster, Dixon, and Outlaw this week.  One or two players probably won't do it.

All of this is not to say we can't win tonight, or in any of the games this week.  We're just going to have to show more than we have so far if we're going to do it.  Not getting down so far in the first place would be a fine start.  Achieved consistently, that in itself would show that we've taken our game to another level.  

If we don't emerge from this week with a sterling record, it doesn't mean we've regressed.  It just means we've only taken a nice two or three steps forward in our development instead of the amazing, improbable leap that we're dreaming of.

--Dave (