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

Trail Blazers Host Bobcats Before Hitting The Road

03/04/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Monday, the Trail Blazers (27-31) welcome the Charlotte Bobcats (13-46) to the Rose Garden for the final meeting between the two teams. Tip-off is set for 7PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. This is the Trail Blazers final home game until they embark on a three-game road trip later this week.

        •    The Trail Blazers were down by 18 points with less than five minutes left to go in the game and it seemed that an already tough road trip was going to hit rock bottom. However, Luke Babbitt entered the game, the Trail Blazers got hot, made some big plays and they somehow managed to send the game into overtime and eventually get the 118-112 win against the Bobcats in Charlotte on December 3rd. It's hard to say what qualifies as a turning point for a team that is four-games under .500, 58 games into the season, but it's hard to imagine what that loss could have done to moral. But fortunately for the Trail Blazers, they never had to find out. The Trail Blazers were able to get the win and even though it was only their second and final win on the seven-game road trip, that game has been referenced multiple times throughout the season by players and coaches as an example of why they compete until the final buzzer.   
       
    •    When Terry Stotts was asked by a reporter at Sunday's practice whether he had a rotation, Stotts wasn't quick to commit. The inconsistency of the bench the whole year has led to the lack of a set rotation for most of the year. "That's the way it is now. I had a rotation earlier," Stotts said. And, he did, for a brief time, with Luke Babbitt playing the power forward when LaMarcus Aldridge would sit, but Stotts noted that Meyers Leonard's ankle injury "affected the rotation a little bit."  But despite the fact Stotts wouldn't commit, it's hard to see Trail Blazers games down the stretch without Leonard, Eric Maynor and Victor Claver coming off the bench. Maynor notched a career high in assists (12), while playing alongside Damian Lillard for most of the night. Maynor has also looked very comfortable running the pick and roll and setting up teammates when Lillard isn't in the game.  The Bobcats like to go small much like the Timberwolves on Saturday, which allowed the two to play together, but Stotts acknowledges the importance of using the line-up but also allowing Maynor to spell Lillard. "Wes is still not 100 percent. So, I think managing his minutes is still a concern. But I like the way Eric and Damian play together but at the same time I've to make sure I'm still resting Damian so I can't overuse that line-up." Victor Claver has played at least 13 minutes in every game since the break and has also started play more minutes at power forward as well as small forward. Claver scored 10 points against Minnesota on Saturday. Leonard has been playing very well over the last three games with 9.3 points and a total rebound percentage of 21.3 percent (meaning he grabs 21.3 percent of all rebounds when he is on the floor). JJ Hickson is currently fifth in the league in this category, as he is grabbing 20.4 percent of all available rebounds while he is on the floor this season.
       
    •    The comeback in Charlotte made the very good performances by the Bobcats' Ben Gordon (29 points, eight threes) and Kemba Walker (22 points, seven assists) irrelevant. But for much of the game, especially the beginning, the Charlotte guards were having their way. Specifically, they were breaking down Portland in the pick and roll as Charlotte guards were either given clear driving lanes or clean looks from three. Most of the damage from distance was done by Gordon as he hit eight of those 12 threes. It doesn't look like the Trail Blazers will have to worry about Gordon much, as he hasn't played more than 17 minutes in a game since February 11th, and hasn't shot over 40 percent in a game since February 6th. However, you never know what could happen because this is the NBA. The Trail Blazers still have to concern themselves with dribble penetration by Walker and back-up Ramon Sessions. The Bobcats have the NBA's worst record, but they are very good at getting to the free-throw line, as they rank fourth in the NBA in free-throws attempted relative to field goals attempted (FT/FGA) at 31.4 percent (meaning their free-throw attempts are equivalent to 31.4 percent of their field goal attempts).
      
     •    The Trail Blazers need to do what they did on Saturday and take care of their own business. Players before and after the game on Saturday touched on their necessity to focus on what they need to do, rather than what is going on with their opponents. The Bobcats have won six games since the first month of the season where they won seven games. They are coming off a blowout loss to the Kings on Sunday night but the less the Trail Blazers pay attention to that, the better. The Bobcats, like the Wolves, are coming to Portland having gone through a terribly rough season up to this point. The last thing the Trail Blazers want to do is give the Bobcats a taste of revenge. A quality first quarter, like the 31-19 one they had on Saturday night, will certainly be a big help in setting the tone for a game they should win. With a three-game road trip, including two games against two of the Western Conferences top four teams (Memphis, San Antonio), starting on Wednesday, the Trail Blazers don't have the luxury to mess around tonight.

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