Trail Blazers vs Warriors Wednesday, 04/17/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Look For Sweep In Orlando

02/10/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Sunday afternoon, the Trail Blazers (25-25) take on the Orlando Magic (14-36), marking the beginning of the second half of this six-game road trip. The game will begin at 3PM and be televised on CSNNW and can be heard only on 620 KPOJ.


        •    The last match-up between these two teams was a dramatic and exciting one early in January. The game was a high-scoring affair that went into overtime where the Trail Blazers eventually prevailed. Portland got a big scoring night from their whole starting five and Nicolas Batum had a then-career-high in assists with 10. LaMarcus Aldridge led the team with 27 points and 10 rebounds while JJ Hickson had 20 points and a team-high 15 rebounds. Wesley Matthews had 24 points on the night and the Trail Blazers got good bench production. The Trail Blazers were behind early in that game and they managed to survive 29 points sand six three-pointers from JJ Redick (game-time decision with sore right shoulder) and a last-second shot by Jameer Nelson to send the game into overtime. The Trail Blazers and Magic were in a dog fight  until the two minutes when Lillard closed the game out for Portland. At the two minute mark a sequence that took 1:06 was one of Lillard's signature moments of the year where he scored four points, recorded two assists a rebound and a steal. It's stretches like that, that can really show you how great he already is and how great he could be. But, with a back-to-back starting on Tuesday in Miami, Lillard and the rest of the Trail Blazers just hope they won't have to go into overtime to win this one. As far as injuries are concerned on the Trail Blazers side, Ronnie Price could go with his injured right ankle and Sasha Pavlovic, inactive on Friday, continues to deal with his foot injury but he and Price did practice on Saturday. Price was active in Houston but did not play as Nolan Smith continued to get minutes at the back-up point guard spot.
      
     •    As far as match-ups are concerned, the one at least this writer will be watching closely is the one between LaMarcus Aldridge and Nikola Vucevic. Down the stretch of the last game Vucevic, who turned out to be Orlando's finest prize in the Dwight Howard trade, guarded Aldridge step-for-step. Vucevic is a talent on both ends but is a terrorizing rebounder. Aldridge has been on an absolute tear as of late (averaging 24.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 53.8 FG% in the last six games) so this match-up between an All-Star and a truly rising star in Vucevic will be the one to watch. Vucevic is the fourth leading rebounder in the NBA at 11.4 boards per game now in his second season. Aldridge is now 15th in rebounding as well as eighth in the NBA in scoring. Aldridge is the only player in the NBA that is a top-ten scorer and a top-20 rebounder.
      
     •    Could Nicolas Batum's monster second half in Houston be a sign of things to come? Rip City and the Trail Blazers sure hope so. Nicolas Batum scored 21 of his 24 points in Houston in the second half and he showed some aggression shooting the ball that hasn't been seen in a few weeks since his right wrist started bothering him. He began wearing a new brace and it seemed to help, especially in that second half. Batum was able to shoot from the outside which made opponents respect his outside game more, opening up the lane and the offense more as a whole. Having Batum and his scoring punch back would do wonders for the Trail Blazers. Their problem wasn't offense the other night in Houston but the fact that Batum was able to show some ability and willingness to shoot the ball was probably the game's most important takeaway moving forward.

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