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Game 42 Preview: Blazers vs. Wizards

Game Time:  10:00 Pacific  TV:  Comcast and NBA TV?  (Schedules have this game on NBA TV but my DTV guide doesn't...)


The Wizards are 13-26 in what has turned out to be a frustrating, chaotic adventure you just have to laugh at to keep from crying.  The promise in this team was always the trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison surrounded by athletic role players.  The idea was to overwhelm the opponent.  Instead the Wizards themselves looked overwhelmed most nights.  And who can blame them?  Arenas has decided he's more Matt Dillon than Magic Johnson and has earned an indefinite suspension for his rootin'-tootin' Old West ways.  Butler has been healthy--a rare occurrence in the last few years--but his production has dropped significantly from its peak and he's looking more like a third starter headed towards fourth than a second guy pushing first.  Only Jamison remains a stalwart, playing better than he has in years.  But he's not enough of a star to carry the team by himself, which is essentially what he's being asked to do night in, night out.

Among the supporting cast, center Brendan Haywood is having the best year, averaging 10 points and 11 rebounds per game, more than 4 of those on the offensive end.  He's been a rebounding terror the last couple of weeks.  Shooting guard Mike Miller might have been some help but he's been injured most of the year.  After that you've got a bunch of guys struggling to be NBA players:  Randy Foye, Andre Blatche, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire.  Earl Boykins is still hanging on, DeShawn Stevenson is lucky to still have a paycheck, Fabricio Oberto isn't even playing.  Between the firearms suspensions, discipline problems, injuries, and lack of talent the ship is in pieces floating on the water.  Grab hold of Jamison and hope the Coast Guard comes soon.

Even with all of that, the Wizards can surprise you some nights.  They still have explosive players.  Dynamite still does damage even if it's not set up correctly.  Play with matches around Washington and you could end up on the wrong side of 112 points.  They've beaten Dallas, Cleveland, and Orlando this season.  The Wizards need an offensive explosion to win, however.  They've won only twice when scoring fewer than 100 points.  If you contain them at all they can't defend well enough to keep you from walking away with the "W".  And unfortunately for them their current lineup ends up easy to defend on most nights.  Thus the record.

The biggest problem with the Wizards' attack right now is that they're not scoring enough easy buckets.  They get few points in the paint and they're on the south side of mediocre on the break as well.  The point of having athletes is to beat people to the bucket and the Wizards aren't doing that.  The biggest problem with their defense is that they can't defend.  There's not a stopper in the bunch now that Butler has slowed down.  They have trouble guarding the lane and serious trouble guarding the perimeter, mostly because they sacrifice the distance cover in order to compensate in the paint.  They're average offensive rebounders, below-average defensive rebounders.  Washington can do a few things decently but they don't have a single "pop-worthy" aspect to drive them to victory, or even give them a chance at victory most nights.  A team like Golden State has pace and the relentless attack.  A team like the Kings has shooters.  The Wizards have hope...that's about it.

This ought to be a win for the Blazers.  A loss would be a disappointing way to start the road trip, especially since the competition gets tougher later.  The way to make a success out of any trip is to build a cushion early.  Today's the day for that.

Keys to the Game

1.  Guard Jamison and make someone else try to beat you.

2.  Remember you can get most any shot you want.  Start with penetration and make them stop you close.  If they move to do that your threes will be open all night.  This should work even if Roy doesn't play.  It's simple basketball, which is what you need today.

3.  Keep Haywood from the offensive boards.

4.  Do get back on defense.  Don't make it easy for them.

5.  In the same vein, take care of the ball.

Let's hope the Blazers bring their homecourt confidence and take this game seriously.  Let us also hope that playing when they ought to be napping doesn't throw them off too much.

Check out the Washington story at BulletsForever

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--Dave (