What have the Blazers done lately?
Since acquiring Arron Afflalo at the trade deadline, the Blazers have gone 4-2. While they gave up an embarrassing loss to Utah without Afflalo (in which Portland only scored 76 points), they have also notched impressive wins over the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers. Portland is on the second night of a back-to-back after the Clippers game. Hopefully the Mavs' up-and-down play of late has them flying under the radar, and they can take advantage of a tired opponent coming off a big win to sneak out with an upset victory.
Which Blazer is most likely to go off on the Mavs tonight?
Wesley Matthews seems the obvious candidate. Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler (listed as probable for tonight's game) should do well enough at keeping Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge at bay. Wes, who had a 31-point outburst against the Spurs last week, has a good 2 inches and 40 pounds on Monta Ellis, who will likely be his primary defender. Monta has a tendency to not guard the 3-point arc too vigorously, and Matthews can drain more than a few if he gets hot. Monta needs to stay focused tonight, and hopefully Aminu can help with this matchup some off the bench. Other (less obvious) Blazers to watch for are Meyers Leonard, who is quietly making strides off the bench and should match up well against Amar'e, and Afflalo, especially if J.J. Barea has to guard him for any period of time.
Which bench has the edge?
While I love Devin Harris and Barea, Steve Blake and Afflalo have a pretty clear advantage in the backcourt. Afflalo is still getting acclimated to his new team, but is averaging just under 10 points a game in Portland, with a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent. Nothing about Blake's stats are eye-popping, but he is a solid vet. But give me Aminu-Amar'e-Jefferson over Portland's primary bench bigs, Leonard and Chris Kaman. Leonard has been solid lately, but Kaman is ... well, Kaman. We all remember him right? In the end, the Mavs hopefully have enough bench power to overcome Portland's star power of Dame and Aldridge.
How do the Mavs win this game?
Find a way to keep Lillard and Aldridge under control. Guard the three point line (Portland is fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage and sixth in attempts). Limit turnovers and keep playing sound defense (duh). Hopefully the return of Tyson Chandler provides both an emotional boost and an influx of (hopefully well-rested) talent against a tough opponent. Basically, if the Mavs play well, they have a good shot at leaving Portland with their second straight win. If not, the Blazers will likely make them (and thus us, as fans) suffer.
Tonight's game is a late one, at 9:30 central time on TNT.