For a team that made the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season, the Portland Trail Blazers have looked less than sharp so far this season. That is, until they dominated everyone's favorite team out East, LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers. The 2-2 Blazers host the Mavs in a late game, which tips off at 9:30 CT on TNT. So what should you expect from this game?
What did the Blazers do over the summer?
I'll go ahead and place this trigger warning here. This game may be tough for Mavs fans to watch, as there will almost certainly be a Kaman sighting. He was signed this offseason as the Blazers' primary backup big, despite the fact that they have talented young big men like Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard, and Joel Freeman. So why the Blazers would want to add an offensive black hole and all-around frustration like Kaman is beyond me. Mavs fans prone to traumatic flashbacks of the 2012-13 season may want to sit this game out. You've been warned.
(The Blazers also replaced backup PG Mo Williams with Steve Blake, but that's not as interesting for Mavs fans as confronting everyone's least favorite caveman.)
What is the biggest matchup to watch?
Dirk vs. Aldridge. Duh. Aldridge is widely considered one of the best power forwards in the NBA today, and because he has some range (and is originally from the DFW area), he has tended to draw some (honestly pretty shallow) comparisons to Dirk throughout his career. But this matchup is usually pretty fun. Aldridge is averaging almost 23 points and 6 rebounds a game so far this season, as compared to Dirk's 20.8 and 5.5.
A secondary matchup that could be good is Parsons vs. Batum. Batum is a player who is very similar to Parsons, except that the Blazers small forward is more of a defensive stopper than offensive dynamo. But both are versatile weapons, and it will be interesting to see how they go at each other.
How the hell are the Mavs going to stop the Blazers' backcourt?
The Mavs defensive woes are no secret. I honestly have no idea how Jameer Nelson and Monta Ellis are going to do anything to stop Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Lillard is one of the most dynamic young guards in the NBA and should have no problems flying by Nelson at will. Matthews has a good 40 lbs on Monta and can make it rain threes if he is left open (and everyone knows how Monta loves to leave shooters open above the arc). The Blazers starting backcourt should have their way with the Mavs, and it will be on the Mavs offense to stay with the Blazers until the Mavs' can use its bench to take control.
Will Al-Farouq Aminu play?
Aminu left the Mavs' last game due to an issue with his left knee. His presence was sorely missed, as Jeff Green completely went off on the Mavs, and Dallas couldn't seem to buy a rebound in the second half. Aminu has been a major part of Dallas's bench so far this season, and he will hopefully be able to go against the Blazers. He did participate in practice, but no word yet on whether he will suit up.