The NBA is back, and we have a buffet of games to talk about. Let’s examine the undercard. Get excited for Golden State-Sacramento. Stephen Curry didn’t have the greatest all-star game, but I expect him to fare better against Sacramento’s lackluster defense. Klay Thompson, Boogie Cousins, and Rudy Gay? Sure. Orlando-Cleveland has your All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving, and maybe, Victor Oladipo shows out a bit, after Cleveland passed on him in last year’s draft. If being booed out of the building tickles your fancy, Rockets-Lakers could be the game for you, as Dwight Howard returns to the Staples Center for a verbal attack of the ages…maybe.
The Game of the Night, however, goes to San Antonio vs. Portland, and I’m not too proud about that. I wish we had another game to talk about, but alas, this is the game. Personally, I feel like we talked about both teams at length for our GOTN series, but let’s do it one more time.
Newsflash: The Spurs are a good basketball team. The Spurs are really good. Gregg Popovich is running the machine perfectly. Marco Bellineli is an excellent role player, Boris Diaw does some of the little things that allows him to thrive with Duncan behind him, and the defense is still good. Still, father time is undefeated, and in this case, it’s slowly knocking out the Spurs star core. Tim Duncan is still providing excellent defense and scoring, but Tony Parker is banged up, Manu Ginobili is actually having a really good season (PER 36 numbers of 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.8 assists with a 57.6 TS%), but there are nights where he can’t ratchet it up. To top it all off, Kawhi Leonard, the connecting cog from this past core to the new era, is hurt with a broken finger. At full strength, the Spurs could make it to the Finals, but at what point do they get there? We’ll never know, and until then, I feel like Los Angeles and Oklahoma City are safer bets.
As for the Blazers, the injury bug has seem to hit them as well. Joel Freeland is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks with a MCL injury, and recently, LaMarcus Aldridge is out for a week with a groin strain. As a result, the Blazers are coming back to the pack, losing eight of their last ten, and falling into the middle of the pack of the playoff picture in the West. Of all the playoff teams in the West, Portland probably needs to swing a major deal the most, not only for a rim protector, but someone who can solidify the defense on the perimeter as well. Even if the Blazers stay put, the backcourt trio of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews are excellent three-point shooters, Robin Lopez isn’t a horrible rim protector, and Batum is a do-it-all player. All of that should make Portland an interesting playoff team.
Prediction: Spurs 101, Blazers 92.
Time: 10:00 PM EST
TV: FSSW (San Antonio) | CSNN (Portland) | League Pass