Here are your 2019-20 Blazers: Dame, CJ, Kent Bazemore, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Tolliver.
That was the starting lineup versus the Milwaukee Bucks a couple of nights ago. With the way things have been for Portland, this trend will probably continue. The loss, as well as last week’s 1-3 slate, was telling. For one, the insurmountable injuries and numerous times these Blazers have had to bounce back during games is mind boggling.
With every ounce, they're still playing hard. Sheed is somewhere smiling. But to quote the late Dennis Green, they are what they are. The team you saw is what remains. What also remains is a team just shy of the final playoff seed with a 4-game stretch ahead of them this week. Portland first hosts the Charlotte Hornets, and then it's on the road at Houston, Dallas and finally Oklahoma City.
Charlotte - 1/13
This injury-plagued squad will have to keep blazin' a trail. This will be the first time these teams take the court and "injured" isn't Charlotte's tagline. The Hornets are and have been relatively healthy this season. They got two worker bees in the backcourt who've played every game.
"Scary" Terry Rozier, was all but afraid in 5 of his last 6 games, posting 30, 29, 28, 27 and 23 points respectively. Look for him to bounce back from a lowly 5-point performance versus Phoenix.
The Rozier-Kemba Walker trade may have overshadowed who's leading the way in Charlotte. Devonte Graham is likely punching his ticket into the Rising Stars challenge this coming All-Star weekend as he leads the team in averages for points (18.6) and assists (7.7). The question you'd have to ask yourself if you're Dame and CJ is, can you stifle the sting of these Hornets? Both Graham and Rozier get out and play with intensity and shoot above 38% from 3.
We know Portland's backcourt will embrace such a challenge, but it's the defensive struggles with guard play that continues to daunt them. Other guards get theirs and it then becomes a back and forth shooting spree. Here, it will be about who wants it more, especially since both teams are vying for that final playoff spot in their respective conferences.
Houston - 1/15
Two more playmakers will test Portland here, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. We know it gets dicey every time it's a Russ-Dame matchup.
It was Westbrook who waved goodbye the last time these two met garnering a 28 point triple double in the 132-108 win. Harden led the way with 36 points, while CJ battled back with 25.
The Rockets, looking to load manage, will rest Westbrook against Memphis tomorrow then suit up for Portland. Say what you want about load management, but it's proved to be helpful here as Westbrook scored 28 and 34 the last two times after a rest.
It will be interesting how these Rockets fair when they're on the floor together. While Westbrook returned with thunder the last time he took a rest and then played OKC, Harden struggled in the same performance going 5-17 from the field.
Dallas - 1/17
Every game counts, but if I were the Blazers, I'd look at these previous guard matchups as a highly competitive sparring session. The prize fight will eventually arrive with Luka Doncic and the Mavs attempting to swing the haymaker.
Currently, Doncic is a freight train rolling down hill. He wants to outplay his opponent every time and two triple doubles this year already is a good measure.
Despite a great sophomore follow up thus far, he did struggle, missing 5 free throws and turning the ball over 6 times in Dallas' loss to the Lakers most recently. He still went out and earned 25 points, 10 boards and 7 assists. If that's a bad game, look out.
Fellow euro Kristaps Porzingis (knee injury, illness) has missed all of 2020 thus far, after playing most of 2019. He did practice Monday but coach Rick Carlisle called his timetable "iffy" for the next two games. That sets up a potential return against Portland on Friday. Portland has a real chance here as Dallas has also been iffy themselves with games of late going 5-5 in their last 10. Arguably, Portland's best win this season was back in October over these Mavs.
OKC - 1/18
Portland could easily be up 3-nil on the season series. Instead, they squandered a real opportunity to go 10-3 in 13 games with a victory back on December 8.
The opportunity was lost in the waning minutes in the 4th quarter when it was only a 90-86 Thunder lead. OKC then went on an 18-10 run to close. Portland will have to contend with yet another backcourt duo with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroeder although it's been the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander show of late.
Gilgeous-Alexander posted a string of 20 points or more games to start January. During that Portland game, he caught fire down the stretch and eventually tallied his score total to 21.
While all's been said about the little guys, something needs to be said about the front court. The Trail Blazers outrebounded OKC in their last outing, including an 18-13 advantage on the offensive glass. Skal Labissier grabbed 7 total rebounds in 16 minutes of that game. They also out-blocked them 8-2. They'll only have Whiteside garnering most of the duties down low this time.
Four impactful games
Let's see if Portland can pull out a string of wins, or a win this week. I feel this week's an important one, with a chance to possibly go 2-2, maybe even 3-1 since Charlotte is manageable. Lastly, if Porzingis isn't available, Dallas is a winnable one. Let's hope they can do what they didn't do against Minnesota last week and take advantage of a team struggling without one of its stars.
If you enjoy the content you are reading, please become a member on this site.
Follow Blazer Gang on Social media
Follow me on snapchat: @indyboi6