Pump Up Music: Jimmy Eat World -- "Bleed American"
The Big Picture: Depending how you view Brandon Roy, the Portland Trail Blazers are either a traditional NBA title contender, or they're a dark horse contender with talent up and down the roster, but no singular superstar spearheading everything. I happen to be in the Brandon Roy Is A Superstar camp. Portland fans are lucky to be watching a Hall of Fame caliber guard leading them (not saying he's going to the HoF, just that he's producing at that level now), and that's one of the prerequisites of a championship team.
The best part for them, though, is that the rest of the team is pretty stacked, too. LaMarcus Aldridge is a borderline All Star who's picked up his rebounding this year. Steve Blake and Andre Miller have a really high floor at PG; between the two of them, it's nearly guaranteed they won't get a stinker from the position in a given game. Of course, there's Greg Oden, who may not be the Evolutionary Russell like some breathless folks thought back when he was drafted, but at the absolute least, he's every bit Kevin Love's equal, only without nearly as many questions about his defensive capabilities.
Last night, the Blazers ground out a win over the Hornets, who were without Chris Paul for the fourth quarter after an ankle injury. Brandon Roy logged the most minutes, with 38, and all twelve guys played. In other words, they're reasonably rested for the seconf half of a back to back. Look for the same kind of minutes distribution again, with the Blazers going ten deep. Blake and Miller should start together, and Joel Przybilla, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless, and Rudy Fernandez could all get at least ten minutes each.
Key to Victory: I'm most concerned about the Aldridge-Boris Diaw matchup. If Gerald Wallace ends up on Roy for much of the game, that's awesome for us, and if it's Raja Bell, then so be it, because he's probably still a better option than Flip, and if Felton's guarding Roy, that means D.J. Augustin is in the game. While he should get every opportunity to play his way out of his slump, D.J.'s been a horror show the past few times out. But I don't think we have any kind of answer for Aldridge other than Diaw stepping up his game. Crash might be able to contain him a bit, but that would require putting Diaw on even more perimeter-oriented players, and that's no good. Physically, Freedom Fries is probably best suited to dealing with Aldridge, but that's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay outside the box thinking at this point. Might Larry Brown follow up on his idea to play Tyson Chandler at the four sometime this season and go with Muhammad for stretches?
Might Interest .08% of You Should Interest 100% of You: Blazersedge, the SB Nation Trail Blazers blog, holds a Blazersedge Night every year, in which readers donate Blazers tickets to kids who wouldn't otherwise get to go. Please consider it yourself. One of the best Christmas gifts I've ever received was when the then-Official Girlfriend of Rufus on Fire bought a few of those tickets in my name.