Portland Trail Blazers (7-7) at Brooklyn Nets (4-8)
Nov. 20, 2016, 12:30 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Nets injuries: Caris LeVert (0ut), Jeremy Lin (doubtful)
SBN Affiliate: Nets Daily
Mired in a streak that has seen them trail by 20 in each of the last three games and at least 17 in each of the last five, the Portland Trail Blazers will try to get back on track in a matinee game today against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets are one of the least threatening teams in the NBA, to the point that their 4-8 record can be considered overachieving expectations thus far in the season. Coach Kenny Atkinson, in his first season at the helm of an NBA squad, has inherited a roster with some talent, but little cohesiveness. With Brooklyn owing the Celtics yet another first round pick this season, the team has little incentive to tank, and Atkinson has them playing hard and fast - leading the league in pace through their first dozen games.
When Brooklyn isn’t running the ball, everything still revolves around skilled center Brook Lopez, who averages nearly 21 points per game. Lopez is a capable scorer in the high or low post who, similarly to Memphis big man Marc Gasol, has begun shooting the 3-point shot in earnest this season - putting up 56 threes through his first 12 games, far surpassing his previous career high in attempts of 14.
Lopez shoots a respectable 36 percent from distance, so he can’t be left alone on the perimeter. Already considered a below-average rebounder, Lopez has seen his offensive boards sink to career-low numbers, inevitably a result of him spending more time outside of the paint.
Brooklyn features a pair of athletic forwards in Trevor Booker and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Booker is a solid rebounder and above-average defender with an improving, if still inconsistent jump shot, while Hollis-Jefferson is an exceptional defender against multiple positions with a questionable shot.
Shooting guard Bojan Bogdanovic, a big wing with the ability to space the floor, has the size and strength to switch onto bigger opponents but can struggle with smaller guards like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Bogdanovic is a streaky shooter and, unfortunately for the Blazers, is currently on a hot streak - averaging 20 points in Brooklyn’s last three contests.
Free agent point guard acquisition Jeremy Lin is doubtful for Sunday’s game with an injured hamstring, so expect journeyman Randy Foye or youngster Sean Kilpatrick to get the nod against Portland. Foye hasn’t done much shooting-wise this season, but is at least limiting his turnovers until Lin is able to return, while Kilpatrick has impressed with his aggressiveness in getting to the basket, averaging 14.3 points per game.
On paper, this matchup shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for Portland, but with their defensive difficulties over the last two weeks, the Blazers are vulnerable to anyone until they get on track. The good news for them is that Brooklyn is a poor offensive rebounding team - No. 25 in the NBA. Portland finally out-rebounded an opponent for the first time since opening night on Friday against the Pelicans, and they will need to continue to work the glass.
There isn’t any such thing as a must-win game in November, let alone against a bottom-dwelling Eastern Conference team, but the Blazers need to right the ship quickly. It’s not time to panic yet, but fans are getting restless, and a lot of hand-wringing can be put to rest with a win.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
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