The Blazers have struggled, and not just because of the crippling injury to wonderbig Greg Oden. Portland struggled with Oden; losing him hasn't, as some argued it would, fixed things.
Actually, the whole matter of why the Blazers have struggled so much is a touchy subject, and I'd venture that 100 Portlanders would give you at least 25 or so different reasons. Steve Blake, Andre Miller, either or both. LaMarcus Aldridge's defense. A painfully slow method of offense. Not enough Jerryd Bayless. Injuries to Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez. Coaching. Energy. Faith. Confidence.
Whatever the case, strike before the toast cools. If you want that butter melted (in other words, if you want to win in Portland) you've got to act now (in other words, you've got to act ... oh, nevermind). Easier opportunities for road wins have come and passed. Others (Minnesota, Milwaukee) will come still. But this is a fine opportunity for traveling victory, insomuch as a healthy, correct Blazers team registers nearly unbeatable in the Rose Garden.
If there is one serious note of analysis I may offer, by which I mean stea, it is that the Kings are really bad in terms of giving up fast break points, but the Blazers are the team perhaps least likely to take advantage of that. (This might be doubly the case with Rudy out.) Regarding that second link, which regards the Blazers' habit of milking the shot clock for every last drip of time (MMMM ... time), do note that it is imperative (imperative!) for the Kings to
a) not bail Portland, or more specifically talented driver Brandon Roy, hesistant shooter Andre Miller and hesistant driver Aldridge, out with a foul with, say, six seconds or less left on the clock -- let them condemn their own bridge, aye,
and b) secure the defensive rebound, which is not something that cannot be said before all 82 games.
THE KEY BATTLE
Aldridge vs. Jason Thompson. Two lovely offensive rebounders, two friends who can match outside jumpers ... but our pugilist is definitely more of a brawler. Despite his length, Aldridge is a perimeter-oriented power forward. According to HoopData.com, Aldridge takes 5.1 attempts per game from 10 feet or closer, and 7.2 attempts per game from further out. Thompson takes 7.1 attempts from within 10 feet, and just 3.3 from further. All this while, again, both are considered among the league's best offensive rebounders. All weird, man.
Forget Kevin Pritchard. The Portland fans, or more accurately the Rose Garden experience, might be the most important northern blueprint for the Kings to follow. The Blazers tossed out the dirty pool from that awful post-2000 era, and the fans almost immediately returned. I hope we see that community re-engagement in Sacramento, though I fear the fact that Portland is more of an "only-game-in-town" scenario (due to the proximity of the Bay Area) and simple timing (with the economic crisis) makes it a bit uneven, or even unfair.
Kings by 14,003. (The SRSS is back, batches!)
Portland is in the same time zone as us? Weird. 7 PM start. Game threads at 7 and 8, post-gamer at 9:45, recap sometime tomorrow.