Photo via Deseret Sports
After going 3-1 last week, the Blazers are back in the mix for a top 4 seed in the West. While wins against the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Mavericks were all impressive, a 30 point loss to Utah was a major sore spot to the team. The team looks to grant Blazers fans their Christmas wish of continuing their current trend, but who will the team have to takedown? Find out on this week’s edition of Blazers Weekly Preview.
12/25- Blazers @ Jazz
The Blazers will be looking to take Christmas cheer away from Utah fans after a 120-90 loss against the Jazz just four days prior. Over the course of the game, the Blazers made the previously lackluster Jazz offense seem like Golden State, with Ricky Rubio playing the part of Stephen Curry. Additionally, Utah’s bench of Dante Exum, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Royce O’Neale were able to penetrate and create space almost at will. On the flip side, the Blazers were stifled by Utah’s physical defense that, while not as elite as last year, is still a force to be reckoned with. In order to win this Christmas Night matchup, the team must first stop the Utah offense from penetrating and force them to shoot from deep, as they are in the bottom 10 in three point percentage. Secondly, the Blazers must find a way to counteract Utah’s pressure of Damian Lillard.
12/27- Blazers @ Warriors, 12/29- Warriors @ Blazers
The Blazers were not on Santa’s nice list this year, who have to face the defending champs twice in a row in the days following their Christmas matchup. No longer dealing with drama or injuries, the team is now holding the second spot in the West. While the team still seems to be in coasting mode, that does not make them any less dangerous. With MVP caliber seasons from BOTH Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, the team seems to be gearing up for another Finals run. Despite all their strengths, however, the Warriors are doing some tinkering with their starting lineup. Draymond Green has struggled mightily from shooting beyond the arc this year, and their usual starting center, Kevon Looney, is no threat from outside the paint. To create more spacing, the team put Jonas Jerebko into the starting lineup against the Clippers, which in theory should work. Over the course of the season, teams have had success against Golden State by completely sagging off of Green and praying that Curry, Klay Thompson, or Durant do not go nuclear, which is what I expect the Blazers to attempt.
12/30- 76ers @ Blazers
The brutal December schedule ends for the Blazers with a matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. Seeming to find their groove after acquiring Jimmy Butler, while this team does not seem to fit on paper, the trio of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Butler have succeeded. Embiid has been a fringe MVP candidate throughout the year, drawing comparisons to Shaq in terms of his post dominance. Simmons continues to be a matchup nightmare even without a jump shot, and Butler fills in some of the holes left by the two. While the team does have decent shooters in JJ Redick and Furkan Korkmaz, among others, the bench is not very deep. The key to a Blazers victory will be making Philly rely on the likes of Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala, all who have struggled heavily in various areas this year.
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