Gametime: 10:00 p.m. EST
Portland's success this year has been something of a revelation. Last year was a good start but they lacked depth so badly that they had to play their starters absurd minutes. When the offseason came, fans were still split on what to do with their future. Some preferred to shop LaMarcus Aldridge to start a new rebuild around rookie sensation Damian Lillard while others thought Aldridge should remain. Ultimately they went with the latter but restructured marginally with some trades that seemed pretty minor at the time, acquiring Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson for their frontcourt. They also drafted C.J. McCollum and signed Mo Williams and Dorell Wright as free agents.
Lopez has been terrific in their frontcourt solidifying their defense and adding a significant rebounding presence to help out Aldridge, who has always tried to get his rebounding to catch up to his scoring skills. Williams and Wright haven't been great other than offering their shooting prowess, which has helped the Trail Blazers become the second-best team from behind the arc.
Adding in Aldridge's scoring punch, Wes Matthews insane shooting so far this year and Damian Lillard versatile inside and out offense and you've just about got the Western Conference contender we see before us.
The only thing missing is the terrific Nicolas Batum. To put it comparatively, Batum is like a much better Josh McRoberts. He's got a great understanding of the game and how an offense flows with spacing and complements everyone with great passing instincts, the athleticism and size to score on cuts, and the shooting to space the floor.
This game pairs a couple interesting statistics tied together in odd ways. The Bobcats and Trail Blazers are on opposite ends of offensive efficiency, with the former sporting the worst and the latter sporting the best in the NBA. However, the two teams are No. 1 and 2 in midrange shot attempts, per NBA.com/stats. But while Portland boasts the second-best midrange field goal percentage, the Bobcats have the third-worst. Normally one would expect a heavy distribution of midrange shots to indicate a stagnant inefficient offense, but Portland's so well-stocked with great jump shooters from this area they find success from it within the flow of their offense. Meanwhile, the Bobcats lack good shooting and many of their midrange shots come late in the shot clock in desperation.
The Bobcats defense has been slipping lately so it should be interesting if they give a full-game effort to give Portland a tough contest.
Oh, and try to force Damian Lillard to his left hand.