The Blazers, of course, are handling their injury woes with much more intelligence and aplomb than we did; they have won seven out of nine. In Brandon Roy, they will have the best player on the floor tonight. They are excellent at home, and we are clueless on the road. But this is a game we should win. And the path to doing it is as clear as day.
The Blazers will be fielding three, and only three, decent NBA players: Roy, Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless. These guys are very good -- Roy's better than anyone we got, the eternally underrated Miller may be as well, and Bayless is starting to play like the former #6 pick he is -- but they're all 6'5" or shorter. And thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge's tweaked ankle, Portland's frontcourt cupboard is just about bare, with only 62-year-old Juwan Howard, stinky-ass Martell Webster and a host of smallish rookies able to dress. One of those rookies, Jeff Pendergraph, has looked pretty good thus far. But which is the better battle plan, attacking their All-Star backcourt, or the kid playing in his sixth NBA game?
Tonight, we need to own the paint. Biedrins and Randolph should get as many minutes as their health and foul situations allow; Turiaf should get a bunch as well. Monta and Maggette should drive to the hoop early and often. The only healthy Blazer who's shown any ability to rebound or affect shots is Jeff Pendergraph, and again, that's based on a mere 84 minutes of court time. We should shoot thirty foul shots tonight, we should outrebound the Blazers by at least a dozen, and we should win the game. Any other result is unacceptable.
There will be temptations to go another route. Monta may be keen on proving that his November domination of Roy wasn't a fluke; Nellie may see allure in some type of smallball lineup that, for once, wouldn't get absolutely murdered on the glass. These would be mistakes. Brandon Roy is better than Monta Ellis, and we will only risk defeat by trying to prove otherwise; if we have a chance to absolutely murder someone else on the glass, we should take it. Let's not leave this game up to a superhuman effort on Monta's shot or a hot shooting night all around. Let's leave it up to elemental basketball physics.
We will have the bigger and better available roster tonight, a roster that will outrebound, outdrive and outsize the Blazers if simply given the chance. A failure to take advantage of our size will be an abject failure of coaching. Nellie, the ball's in your court.
Warrior To Watch: Anthony Randolph. The default choice at this point, but also tonight's barometer for Nellie's sanity. Big minutes mean the old man's coming around; a short Randolph outing means the marbles are still missing.
Blazer To Watch: Jerryd Bayless. Would you trade Stephen Curry for him? Think carefully about your answer.