Moda Center, 7:30 PM PT
TV: TNT, CSN Bay Area
Radio: KNBR 680AM, Rip City Radio 620AM
Buddy Blog: Blazer's Edge
LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Chris Kaman are all listed as doubtful for tonight's game. Wesley Matthews is out for the season. And obviously when you move 3 players from your bench to your starting lineup, and remove your backup center, both lineups take a big hit.
They did pick up Aaron Afflalo at the trade deadline, but he doesn't seem to be fully assimilated into their system yet. In that time period, he's shot 39% from the field, chipping in roughly 10 points a game, with a low usage rate. After this string of injuries, he might just find his rhythm.
Dorell Wright will likely start, as he started the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, when Batum's back acted up. He's only played 20+ minutes four times this season, but has shot the ball well in those games (44%), and chips in with a little bit of everything.
As for Aldridge's replacement, the most likely candidate is Meyers Leonard. Joel Freeland may soak up some of those minutes as well.
These players are obviously hard to replace. Aldridge takes the worst shot in basketball (the long isolation 2, according to analytics), but drains it with such accuracy that the coaching staff and Damian Lillard can call these plays for him with impunity. Batum is sometimes regarded as a triple-double threat, but has had a bit a of an underwhelming season so far, battling a wrist injury. Regardless, his absence is likely going to cut back their assist ratio, rebounding, and 3-point shooting.
Look for Damian Lillard to carry this team tonight. He is the real deal, and doesn't often get these types of opportunities with the rest of the Portland stars around. Safe to expect that Robin Lopez also puts on the burners, provided Terry Stotts doesn't have to match a bunch of small-ball lineups from Steve Kerr. Interesting article here about Lopez being a 'master of geometry'.
I wouldn't expect the Portland bench to roll over tonight - both the crowd and the increased minutes to go around will probably have an invigorating effect. CJ McCollum provides a scoring punch when Lillard sits, Steve Blake takes on the playmaking duties, and it sounds like there's a chance we'd see Allen Crabbe backing up Dorell Wright. Alonzo Gee is another name to look out for, also traded for at the deadline, but has yet to crack 10 minutes in a game.
The Trail Blazers are on a 4-game losing streak, and a loss tonight would give them their worst such streak in 23 months. Not an exciting time for Portland.
In other news,
Klaystation 3 is back! Klay Thompson returned from his ankle sprain to log 17 minutes. Nice to see the Splash Brothers reunited again.
There is a chance that Kerr limits some of the players' minutes tonight, with it being the end of a back-to-back, and the start of a 4-game road trip. Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala are probably the most likely candidates, but if Klay's ankle is a bit sore after returning last night, his minutes could be trimmed as well. On the other hand, Stephen Curry played a team high 28 minutes last night, with Kerr playing 12 players. That's a drool-worthy rotation, and might not necessitate any restrictions tonight.
On April 9th, Portland will visit the Roaracle, so if you're disappointed that this matchup doesn't live up to the hype, pray to the basketball gods that the next matchup will. In some ways, we should want opponents to play great against us, considering the #1 seed is looking more and more like a lock, and it's all about playoff-caliber execution at this point.