Photo: Benny Sieu, Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
After going 7-3 the first ten games into the season, the Blazers are looking at a tough upcoming week. This week consists of three games against well-coached, defensive minded teams: the Bucks, Clippers and Celtics. If the Blazers are hoping to go 5-1 on this homestand, they will need to bring the energy, effort, and consistency each night. Below are previews for each of the games over the course of this week, and some storylines to watch.
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11/06- Bucks vs. Blazers
The Bucks are coming into Portland red hot, looking to steal a win on the road against the Blazers and go 9-1(only loss coming from the Boston Celtics 11/1) in their first ten games of the season. Coached by Mike Budenholzer, they look to have taken the next step into the elite category. They are coming off of a game against the Kings where they scored 144 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season. The Bucks have had a good defense the last few years that's no secret, built off of length and athleticism. However, the addition of Ersan Ilyasova (coached by Budenholzer in Atlanta), Brook Lopez, former Blazer great Pat Connaughton and rookie Donte DiVincenzo has allowed the Bucks to become more versatile on offense. The fine tuning of offense this past offseason is one of the reasons they are sitting in the top 5 of many NBA power rankings. On a team where everyone seems to know their role they look tough to slow down, their one weakness, exploited in their loss to the Celtics, Are teams that can space the floor and have five three point shooters on the court. The Blazers can do just that. As we have seen Collins, Aminu, Harkless and maybe even Turner have the ability to guard multiple positions and stretch the defense.
What to watch for:
Look for Aminu to matchup on Giannis most of the night, and watch for Chief’s defense to show up against the Greek Freak.
Look for Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard to space the floor and force Brook Lopez and John Henson out of the paint. We may see 20+ minutes of Zach and/or Meyers (especially after that big 15 points and 12 rebound game).
Look for the guards to continually go back to the pick-and-roll, forcing the big men to make a decision. Which, so far this season has resulted in the big men (Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, and John Henson) rotating back into the paint leaving 3’s, and pick-and-pop difficult for the Bucks to defend.
11/08- Clippers vs. Blazers
Doc Rivers has continued to put the Clippers in position to win regular season basketball games, even after getting rid of the Lob City era. Sitting at a 6-4 record, they have three players averaging at least 20 points a game (Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams), and have quietly been the better LA team to start the season. Doc has done a great job maximizing talent and putting his players in position to succeed. Although plagued with injuries and subpar offensive production, the two have continued to get after it on the defensive end close to the previous version of themselves. Another example is Boban Marjanovic and how he has impacted the team with more than just the 9 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes a game.
The Blazers need to find the weak link on the Clippers defense, and attack them accordingly. In this case, it might be CJ if Avery Bradley is a no-go. Another weakness for the Clippers is interior defense as Boban usually plays under 20 minutes, with the next big up being Montrezl Harrell, who is 6’8”. Look for Damian and CJ to find room around the rim and finish with some crafty layups when Boban is on the bench.
What to watch for:
Avery Bradley may miss this game, which will open offensive opportunity for CJ
Dame vs. Patrick Beverley
Expect Aminu, Turner, and Zach to play big minutes defending Gallinari and Harris
Expect the Blazers bench to match the big production from the Clippers bench, which includes Williams, Harrell, and promising rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
11/11- Blazers vs. Celtics
Despite starting the first ten games of the season with a “disappointing” 6-4 record, the Celtics are a dangerous team with unbelievable depth and a top five NBA coach. On paper, the Celtics look unstoppable this year, and do not let numbers tell you otherwise. We witnessed a young Celtics team compete in the Eastern Conference finals last year without their two main stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. We can only imagine what it will be like when chemistry builds and they start to mesh as a team. The slow start for the Celtics has many contributing factors including getting Hayward acclimated into the system, deciding who closes games, choosing between developing youth like Rozier, Tatum and Brown, versus giving the keys to the stars, and going against tough competition early with losses to the Raptors, Pacers and Nuggets. With all that being said, look for the Blazers to try and close this homestand out with a win before going on an upcoming 6 game road trip.
What to watch for:
Marcus Morris has been on fire and look for him to try to be the villain in Portland just like his brother. The bench matchup of Morris and Collins will be a fun one to watch.
Whenever Kyrie is playing it’s always a fun PG matchup. look at Damian to show up after an average performance against the Timberwolves.
Nurkic vs. Horford will be an interesting matchup. Al is one of the better big man defenders and he has the ability to bring the center out of the paint to shoot 3’s and make flashy passes. For the Blazers, Nurkic is has been exceptional averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. If Nurk can keep Horford in check, he can give the Blazers a great chance to win.