Team Records: Atlanta (19-11) at Portland (16-15)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW/NBATV, Radio on 750 the Game.
Vegas Line: Portland -5.
Refs: Ron Garretson, Matt Boland, Olandis Poole.
The Skinny: After a frustrating loss Thursday in which they simply ran out of gas, the Blazers look to end their longest home losing streak in several years against Atlanta. Atlanta comes in riding a bit of a cold streak, losing 5 of their last 8 but has beaten the Blazers six straight times.
Last Time they Met: The Hawks won as the Blazers had a typical Blazer road performance, shooting horribly but somehow never quite being out of game. Josh Smith and LaMarcus Aldridge both tallied double doubles for their respective teams that night.
Projected Hawks Lineup:
PF-Josh Smith (Oak Hill Academy (HS)-8th Season) 16 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.5 APG.
SF-Marvin Williams (North Carolina-7th Season)-9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 APG.
C-Zaza Pachulia (Stanford-11th Season)-6.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG-Joe Johnson (Arkansas-11th Season)-17.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.8 APG.
PG-Jeff Teague (Wake Forest-3rd Season)-12.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Jeff Teague (Pictured at right)- Last year, you could have been forgiven for thinking Jeff Teague was little more than a slasher. After his performance in the second round of the playoffs vs. Chicago, that all changed. Teague has emerged as a solid defender as well, among the league leaders for PGs in blocks, steals and defensive rebounders. More than anything else, Teague is like that little pest that keeps buzzing around and pecking at you. He’s hard to shake off but equally hard to predict how he will act. If Teague attacks the basket he is very hard to stop but if he settles for outside jumpers, he becomes far less effective. Portland will have their hands full with Teague Saturday night.
Did You Know?: Joe Johnson was recently named to his sixth all-star team, second in Hawks history behind only the Human Highlight Reel himself, Dominique Wilkins, who made nine all-star teams.
Song of the Day: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd-This team is so frustrating sometimes, almost makes you want to try anything. Perhaps yelling “FREE BIRD” will help, or at least will amuse those that read this preview:
Portland: Out-C Greg Oden (Knee), Questionable-PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Ankle)
Atlanta: Out-C Jason Collins (Elbow), C Al Horford (Pectoral tear).
Re-Evaluating Atlanta: Bring Me your Old, Your Tired, Your Rejected Scorers
Atlanta managed to compile a good team in no small part by getting Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse to agree to take deals near the minimum for one last shot at the NBA. Although both are shadows of their former selves, they are not done yet. McGrady has become a solid contributor off the bench, averaging nearly 7 points a game and shooting a respectable 46% from the floor. He may not be the same player that once scored 62 in a single game, but he’s not totally done yet. Stackhouse on the other hand, might as well have stayed retired. He has played in only 12 games this year and has hardly been effective when he has, shooting only 38% from the field. At least for Atlanta, no matter what, it is a low risk move to bring these players in since they cost little but have the potential to provide that occasional spark.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They attack inside. Josh Smith is a good interior defender but he is pretty much all the Hawks have. The Blazers should be able to exploit this advantage and make it easier for themselves on offense than has been the case in recent games.
Atlanta wins if: They win points in the paint. If Atlanta is attacking inside successfully, they usually win. If they can win points in the paint, they will be able to win their seventh straight over the Blazers.