The news about CJ McCollum could have been a whole lot worse. Outside of knowing the injury we don’t know the severity nor the length of time that CJ is going to miss for the Blazers. Thankfully, the Blazers next four games are all in the Moda Center and against teams that aren’t exactly lighting the league on fire at the moment. Not to say things won’t be tough, but even without the Blazers’ second-leading scorer, these should mostly be wins.
The Blazers return from a road trip in which they won two and lost one. I figured this is how the trip would have gone, with the loss coming either against the Clippers or the Spurs. They blew out the Clippers, made a lot of us nervous in the game against New Orleans, and then dropped the last game against the Spurs. They were unable to overcome the loss of CJ and make up that small deficit against San Antonio.
What does the week look like?
Indiana Pacers | Monday at 7:30 PM
The first game without CJ involves former Blazers coach and my current Coach of the Year, Nate McMillan. The Pacers are a surprising bunch. They’ve lost Victor Oladipo for the year about 23 games ago and people thought they would fall off a cliff and into the bottom of the Eastern Conference. That has not happened. They’ve competed almost every night out.
Because they rank second in the NBA in defense. They are also second in the league at steals and second in forcing turnovers. They have seven guys who score in double figures every night, led by Bojan Bogdanovic at just under 18 PPG. Myles Turner is a long shot Defensive Player of the Year candidate and he plays a nice inside-out game.
This is the toughest game of the week for the Blazers and should set a tone.
Dallas Mavericks | Wednesday at 7:00 PM
The Mavericks currently sit in 13th place in the West and do not have a playoff spot to play for. This could also be Dirk Nowitzki’s last game in Portland. Everyone is treating it as a farewell tour, but he hasn’t said if he’s retiring or not. The Mavs are a scrappy bunch, with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic standing at the front of the line. If you haven’t seen the kid play, he’s definitely worth the price of admission.
The Mavericks also have a top five coach in Rick Carlisle that schemes really well and gets the most out of a lineup that isn’t so great. The Mavericks are middle of the road defensively, but at the bottom of the pack when it comes to forcing turnovers and blocking shots. The Blazers best bet is to attack the paint and kick out for open threes when the Mavs collapse and don’t complete their defensive rotations.
Detroit Pistons | Saturday at 7:30 PM
Finally, another Eastern Conference playoff team comes to town for the penultimate game of the homestand. This is another team that the Blazers should be able to attack in the paint at will.
Blake Griffin is one of only three double-digit scorers on this team and their leading assist guy. Most of the offense flows through him because frankly, the rest of the roster is not that great. Andre Drummond eats a lot of rebounds and Reggie Jackson will likely commit at least three really dumb plays a night.
The Pistons are playing some pretty good basketball overall. They are 15-5 in their last twenty, including two wins over Toronto. They aren’t the flashiest team, they don’t play a whole lot of defense and have been scoring quite a lot of points during this stretch.
This is not a gimme homestand by any means, especially with a hot Nets team coming in next Monday. Finishing these three games at least 2-1 is pretty imperative. The Rockets have an easy next two games before things pick up a bit for them, while the Thunder play the Heat without Westbrook (suspension) tonight before they have a home-and-home against the Toronto Raptors before taking the weekend off.
By the end of the week Portland has a shot to be sitting in that third seed, but if the guys don’t step up and replace CJ’s scoring they could see themselves potentially sitting in the seventh position come Sunday afternoon.