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Game 66 Preview: Sonics at Blazers

A Look at the Sonics

The Sonics ride into the Rose Garden (of Doom, because it sounds scarier that way) carrying a five game losing streak.  They've been scoring enough, but as has been  true all season long they just can't seem to stop anybody.  Also they've lost their share of tight games, which has got to frustrate them.

The team hasn't changed much since the preview eight or so games ago.  Ray Allen is still superstar-deadly.  Rashard Lewis is as good of a multi-faceted second scorer as you'll find.  At least one of their other guys will amass impressive stats every game but it's seldom more than one and it's seldom repeated.  The inconsistency of everyone besides Allen (and sometimes Lewis) is the main reason the Sonics don't win more.  You can't depend on them to bring their "A" game and sometimes they don't even seem to know what their "A" game is other than watching Ray-Ray shoot.

Most of the following is from the last preview.  If it seems familiar, that's why.

Seattle will run, run, run you every chance they get.  This is the one time when everybody on their team is dangerous...when they're loosely guarded and get a head of steam towards the basket.  Even their otherwise handicapped big men will make you suffer if you let them free around the hoop.  They are not great rebounders or shot blockers and other than Ridnour they don't have many guys who can pass the ball.  (Earl Watson sometimes gets big assist numbers but he's not dependable.)  When they're not running they play a lot from the perimeter, which limits their foul shots.  They shoot a surprisingly high percentage for an outside-oriented team but they let their opponents shoot an amazing percentage in return, which effectively kills them most nights.  It's hard to stay ahead or make runs from behind when you're shooting from distance.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  Transition defense is a huge key tonight.  If they don't run free they have a much harder time winning.  Dunks and layups for them will be huge.
  2.  Points in the paint will be the big stat for us.  If we try to bomb along with them they're going to win the battle.  And make no mistake, they invite you to do just that.  We've got to take it deep inside, draw fouls, and have our guards cut and drive.
  3.  .  With Lewis in the lineup you can't lock down on Allen too tight.  Basically someone (Ime, Travis, maybe Lamarcus?) is going to have to step up big against Lewis while Roy tries to hold his own against Sweet Baby Ray.  If either one of those proves impossible--especially if our guys get into early foul trouble--it's going to be a long evening.  Stay in front of your man, stay out of foul trouble.
  4.  You cannot (CANNOT!) sag down off of the Seattle skill players nor can you go underneath picks on them.  If you do every darn one of them will put a long-distance shot right in the bullseye.  Our guards had better be prepared to fight through screens.  We can't zone them either as that's an open invitation for them to shish-kabob our fannies from the arc.
  5.  This is another game where Zach really has a chance to be the man.  They're not going to be intimidating his shot in there.  They are going to throw 300 different guys against him all eager to burn fouls rather than let him score easy.  He could get 15 shots from the charity stripe tonight if he works it right.  When that happens it's usually a 30-point game for him.
  6.  If Earl Watson wants to shoot the damn ball...LET HIM!
The normal book on a young team is when they lose a hard-fought game like Friday's they come out flat.  The Blazers have been just the opposite this year.  They actually play harder until they get a win or two...then they come out flat.  Plus last time we played the Sonics they made like Swiss Tinkers and cleaned our clocks so there should be a revenge factor working.  My gut instinct has been wrong before but I really feel like it's going to be wrong time, wrong team, wrong arena for the Sonics tonight.  I would not be surprised to see a massive blowout.  However if we do lose because we came out flat I would fear in turn that this might be our last hoorah for the season and that we won't sustain much winning momentum down the stretch.  In other words if we're going to show some fire and fight this would be the obvious game to do it.

I did predict the other night a loss to the Lakers followed by wins against Seattle and Washington...

--Dave (