This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent down at the Wells Fargo Center, our favorite former point man Andre Miller and his Portland TrailBlazers.
Believe it or not, we expect the 76ers to win this game tonight. Yes we know Vegas has installed the Sixers as a 3.5 point “home dog”. And yes we know that Portland is a very talented team that is playoff tested and lives in the brutally tough Western Conference. And yes we can see where many would say that on paper Portland is a better squad then Philadunkia’s home team. But this isn’t the Blazers of 2009-10 that battled hard every night despite major injury problems. Nope, this Blazers team appears burnt out, is sitting at 8-8 while riding a 3-game losing streak and is on the brink of an internal meltdown.
The Sixers should be able to capitalize on all of those issues and get a W tonight.
I say this with confidence for two reasons. The first is that without three of their big men — Greg Oden (again), Sean Marks (ankle) and possibly Joel Przybilla (flu) — the Blazers will have a weak inside game. Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge are both face up bigs who do not like to bang at all. Thus the 76ers featuring rejuvenated work horse Elton Brand, should have an advantage on the interior and easily win the battle in the paint. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if Hawes or Speights showed up for work tonight as well.
The second reason we like the 7-6 in this game is that despite the credentials and big time contracts of the Blazers perimeter players such as Brandon Roy, Wes Matthews and Andre Miller, I am not scarred by any of them. I actually think the Sixers guards and wings can play that group to a draw tonight. Roy, who missed three games earlier this month with a knee injury, has scored 21 and 27 in his last two outings, but because of the knee issues he still has not returned to the dominant player he was last year. To be honest, at times he has moved like an old man. I believe that Turner and at times Iguodala can handle him on the defensive end.
I have plenty of faith that Jrue can match up with Andre Miller. The only pause I have here is that Miller’s back down game could get Jrue into foul trouble. But I’ll roll the dice and say that Holiday (6-4 and 190 pounds) is smart enough to figure out a way to handle the 6-1, 200 pound Miller and stay on the court.
I also like Iguodala’s chances against the newly crowned Blazers starter Wes Matthews. We all know Matthews can score, but he will have a hard time guarding AI9, especially in the open floor. Additionally, AI9 seems to have more bounce in his step and a little extra fire in his belly after his four-game lay off.
So in our minds the Sixers pickup another W tonight.
For a little more insight into the TrailBlazers team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Dave Deckard @ Blazersedge.com to answer two questions on the Blazers from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on the Portland squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : We don’t have to tell you that the Blazers have lost 3 in a row and 5 of their last 7 against a very tough schedule. So what have been the Blazers issues over this recent stretch?
Dave Deckard @ Blazersedge.com :Morale as much as anything. This team suffered though a devastating rash of injuries last season, fighting and clawing for every win, refusing to give up on the playoffs. That was supposed to be the dark night before the dawn. This was the year that Portland finally got everybody back, added those last key defensive and distance shooting pieces, and blitzed their way to contender status. Instead within three weeks of the season opener the news got worse, not better. Brandon Roy is now battling chronic knee issues. Greg Oden, on the cusp of returning, has gone down with another microfracture surgery. All of a sudden this season’s expectations have become last season’s. The requirements have as well. Not to over-dramatize, but it’s similar to being declared free of cancer after a long battle, then being told it has returned. Even though you’re used to fighting that fight, it’s hard for the first few weeks. You’re depressed, lost, and feel like giving up. That’s how the Blazers have been playing. They’re not rebounding hard, they’re missing shots they could make in their sleep, they’re looking at each other on defense instead of moving. They’ll probably snap out of it soon but they haven’t yet.
Philadunkia : Did you even have a reaction when it was announced that Oden would be out for the entire season or is it something you as a Blazers fan / scribe can’t even worry about any more?
Dave Deckard @ Blazersedge.com : We had plenty of reactions, none of them good. This is still a huge issue for Blazer believers. Oden transforms the game by his mere presence because of his strength, size, and rebounding ability. Most of the league hasn’t seen him play much but Blazer fans did for a while and it was awesome. You don’t have to worry about defending the paint or grabbing boards when he’s in, which in turn allows guys to gamble and help more on defense, leak out on the break, and frees them for more open jumpers in the halfcourt. Without Oden the Blazers have zero low-block presence on offense (LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby being face-up types). It’s all jump shots, all the time. It’s hard to win consistently that way. Unless Oden comes back — and whether he’ll ever play full-time is a concern — Portland will have to address this chronic worry by acquiring a guy who can play down there. Having Oden almost back and then ripped away again was a cruel blow and remains at the back of everyone’s minds.
Two Points of Analysis from Dave Deckard @ Blazersedge.com :
1.) Nate McMillan is shaking up his starting five, opting to insert Wesley Matthews for Nicolas Batum at small forward against the 76ers. Matthews has averaged 22 points and 5 rebounds in 38 minutes per game during his three starts, compared to 10 points and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes in his 13 non-starts.
2.) For whatever reason, the Sixers have given the Blazers fits these last few years, both at home and away. The Sixers are 6-4 vs. the Blazers dating back to 2005-06. Roy, Aldridge and a few others have won in Philadelphia only once since December of 2006. That sole Blazers W came in Philly last season (January 2010).