Photo via Associated Press (Cliff Brunt)
After a mediocre week where the Blazers dropped a tough back to back against the Nuggets and Kings, but bounced back with resounding victories against both the Cavaliers and Pelicans. With the team just barely behind the sliding Thunder for the third spot in the playoff picture, now is as good of an opportunity as any to make a stand for the third seed. Who can the Blazers use as they try to climb up the rankings? Find out on this week’s edition of Blazers Weekly Preview.
01/21- Blazers @ Jazz
The ever pesky Jazz, who has given Portland an inordinate ever amount of trouble, seem to have now figured out how to play against the rest of the league. After another poor first half of the season, the Jazz are back in the playoff picture, currently holding the seventh position. It seems that with Ricky Rubio out with a right hamstring injury, Donovan Mitchell found the groove that had been missing this year. However, Rubio is questionable for this game, so time will tell on how the Jazz decide to deal with him. Outside of Mitchell, the Jazz have gotten improvements from Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert, other catalysts from last year’s playoff run. In order to finally defeat the Jazz, the Blazers NEED to force someone other than Mitchell to win the game for the team.
01/22- Blazers @ Thunder
The Thunder, who for most of the season had been controlling a top three seed, have slipped, losing five of their last seven games since their last matchup against the Blazers on January. The Blazers have always been rather successful against the Thunder, even with them losing two weeks ago in a game they should have won. While the Thunder are always going to be Russell Westbrook’s team in spirit, Paul George has taken over the team in terms of on court performance, averaging almost 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and just over 2 steals. The key to a Blazers victory in this matchup will be to force the ball out of the Thunder’s few shooters, and somehow get past their defense, which has slipped a bit.
01/24- Blazers @ Suns
After another tough back to back on the road, the Blazers get a breather against the lowly Suns. While the team has gotten “better” with the acquisition of Kelly Oubre, they still have a stronghold on the cellar of the West. Devin Booker has not been able to stay on the court consistently, taking away one of the only true scoring options for the Suns. As long as the Blazers stay focused, this should be an easy W, especially if rookie center DeAndre Ayton misses another game. Keep an eye on Suns forward TJ Warren, who seems to be the odd man out in the Suns quintet of young wings.
01/26- Hawks @ Blazers
It is another matchup against a tanking team where the Blazers just need to not let off the brake to win, this time being the Atlanta Hawks. While obviously not having a strong win loss record, they have some intriguing players. John Collins has become a double double machine. Kevin Huerter shoots the lights out of the ball, making his lofty Klay Thompson comparison seem more interesting, and while Trae Young has shot the ball terribly, his court vision draws comparisons to Steve Nash. Two players to look out for in this game who could be trade targets are wings Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore.
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