Well, the ol’ crystal ball debut last night just sucked. I correctly (and unfortunately) predicted the Jazz win, but the Spurs outrebounded the Jazz and were in the game all the way, in spite of shooting a terrible percentage. In short, they were pretty bad last night and that does not bode well for Blazer Nation. Tonight presents a completely different kind of challenge for the Spurs: a 3rd in 4 nights game on the road against a banged up team with a weak bench. It’s very winnable, but the Spurs can’t look ahead to the Celts game or this could go badly.
1. Song of the Game: The Dandy Warhols, “We Used to Be Friends”
The DWs are my favorite band from Portland, Oregon and if you’ve ever heard this song, it might be because you used to watch Veronica Mars on the old WB network. The great thing about the DWs is that they sound like almost no one else ever. It’s hard to even describe them to my friends because there are very few comparables out there, other than maybe some obscure British new wave bands from the early 90s. Like Portland itself, one of my favorite American cities, the DWs are unique, fun, and an experience unto itself.
2. Who Has to Be Stopped: Damian Lillard
The obvious answer here is LaMarcus Aldridge, because he is their big gun from a scoring perspective. But I’ll argue that LMA is somewhat unstoppable, because of the type of player he is. When you are a shooting 4 whose premier move is a 17 foot jumper, it’s not that difficult to get your own shot whenever you want. And it’s hard to block or even interfere with a 7-foot jump shooter. Lillard, on the other hand, is the early frontrunner for rookie of the year and has impressed the world with his ability to both run an NBA offense and hit a jumper. I think he’ll see a lot of different looks tonight, in hopes of forcing rookie turnovers.
3. Who Has to Go Off: The Bench
The Blazers bench is terrible. Other than the once-underrated, now-overrated (per his contract, anyway) Nic Batum and maybe Ronnie Price, the Blazers bench is pretty rotten group of players. And Batum is likely out of this game with an injury. The Spurs bench, particularly Splitter, who should destroy the immobile Blazer bigs, ought to have a big game.
4. And the Crystal Ball Says….: Spurs, 97; Blazers, 84
In theory, even with the tired legs of a back-to-back, the Spurs have enough firepower to win this game. The bench alone should be good for a +10 if the team is focused and has some energy.
5. I’m Wrong If….: Batum Plays and The Blazers Shoot Out The Lights
Batum and fellow wing Wes Matthews are injured and are not expected to play, but officially, Batum is listed as questionable. If Batum plays, he gives the Portland some oomph, some 3-pt shooting, plus a knowledge of French when Tony, Boris, and Nando are calling out plays in their native language.
I think the only way Portland wins if they hit a straight-up silly percentage of shots tonight. This is going to be a ticked-off Spurs team that doesn’t like dropping two games in a row.
6. Odds and Ends
– What is it about Energy Solutions Arena that makes good refs forget how to call a game? When was the last time you saw a well-officiated game in Utah? Is there a waiver they have to sign in the Referee’s Dressing Room?
– Big minutes for Patty Mills tonight? I’m just betting he wouldn’t mind putting on a show for his old hometown crew and I bet – with Boston looming – Pop will look for the bench guys to carry big stretches. If I could bet on the #PattyMillsShotCount hashtag on Twitter tonight, I’d take the over.