Portland Trail Blazers (50-26, No. 4 in the West) vs. Brooklyn Nets (35-41, No. 7 in the West)
Monday, April 6
Barclays Center; Brooklyn, NY | 4:00 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: CSNNWHD; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: | Out for the Nets: Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson
SBN Affiliate: NetsDaily | Timmay's Viewing Guide
The Blazers head cross-country to Brooklyn tonight to make up for their cancelled game against the Nets back in January.
Brooklyn most recently lost to the Atlanta Hawks, but a six-game winning streak preceded the defeat and the Nets have found themselves in the seventh seed of the playoffs out East. They have the fourth-best Offensive Rating in the NBA for the last five games, rarely struggle with turnovers, pick up plenty of assists and shoot fairly well from all over the court.
Center Brook Lopez has made 59.3 percent of his shots the last five games for 22.6 points a night. He operates mostly down low, where he's a great finisher, and steps out to the midrange occasionally. Starting frontcourt-mate Thaddeus Young has hit 72 percent of his shots right at the basket.
Point guard Deron Williams is having a bit of a resurgence lately, hitting 51.5 percent of his shots and 56.5 percent of his threes the last five games. He's been moving the ball well and even though his finishing at the rim has suffered, Williams' midrange game is dialed-in right now and he's light-out from deep.
Starting wings Joe Johnson and Markel Brown are both hovering at about 41 percent shooting from the field the last couple weeks. Johnson is the better outside shooter and distributor of the two.
Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins has a bench rotation of guards Bojan Bogdanovic and Jarrett Jack along with big men Mason Plumlee and Earl Clark. Bogdanovic has shot well at the basket and made 40 percent of his threes the last five games. Jack initiates the offense off the bench, typically only shooting when necessary. Plumlee and Clark don't get many shots up. With Alan Anderson out tonight, point guard Darius Morris could sneak into the lineup.
As good as Brooklyn's offense has been the last couple weeks, the defense has been generally as bad. The Nets have a hard time defending the three-point line -- or anywhere, for that matter -- and allow easy ball movement.
The Blazers, after defeating the Lakers and Pelicans in back-to-back games this past weekend, have opted to leave forward LaMarcus Aldridge, center Chris Kaman and wing Nicolas Batum home tonight for the one-game trip out East. This could mean that point guard Damian Lillard, guard Arron Afflalo and center Robin Lopez are joined in the starting lineup by big man Meyers Leonard and forward Allen Crabbe.
Portland coach Terry Stotts will likely have guards CJ McCollum and Steve Blake, wing Alonzo Gee and center Joel Freeland as his bench rotation tonight. Guard Tim Frazier could see some burn. Overall, the Blazers will only have Leonard and Freeland available up front. McCollum will likely do a lot of scoring again, as his primary role off the bench lately has been creating offense, which he's done to much success. With Aldridge, Kaman and Batum joining guard Wesley Matthews and forward Dorell Wright on the inactive roster tonight, Portland's wings and guards will be tasked with carrying much of the offensive load.
The Nets have been a middling rebounding team the last five games, and the Blazers have been dominant on the glass. With much of the frontcourt rotation either struggling with injury or getting a rest tonight, Portland will have a hard time keeping up with good individual rebounders like Lopez and Young.
The Blazers wrapped up their division on Friday with a win over the Lakers and gained another game in the standings Saturday against the Pelicans. Portland is a full game back from the Clippers for the fourth-best record in the West and a half-game behind the Spurs. If the Blazers finish tied with either team in the standings at the end of the regular season, Portland would gain homecourt advantage in the 4-5 matchup by virtue of their division championship.
Blazers fans shouldn't expect a victory tonight -- the Nets are fighting just for the right to be in the playoffs and have played very well lately -- but Portland's guards will have ample opportunity to attack from all over the court. Even if it comes in a losing effort, expect Lillard and McCollum to have big games tonight. Stotts could also opt to run out some small-ball, perimeter-oriented lineups tonight to get a look at all his options as the team heads into the playoffs.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
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