Thirteen games into the season, one thing remains clear–the Trail Blazers really like playing at home. Portland has been electric at home with help from sellout crowds, posting a 5-1 record in the recently revamped Rose Garden. Hitting the road, however, has been like a sobering blast of chilly November air.
Thirteen games into the season, one thing remains clear–the Trail Blazers really like playing at home.
Portland has been electric at home with help from sellout crowds, posting a 5-1 record in the recently revamped Rose Garden. Hitting the road, however, has been like a sobering blast of chilly November air.
The Blazers have yet to win on the road in seven tries, including a recent stretch of four games that saw the team blown out by Denver, Washington and Charlotte and utterly demoralized by Philly when the Sixers came back from a 25-point deficit to win 92-88 on Nov. 16.
Even the Rose Garden, where the Blazers had righted the season with a four-game winning streak just weeks earlier, became the site of their most recent loss, a 106-101 mistake-riddled setback against New Jersey last Wednesday.
The Blazers got back on track Friday night with an 87-84 victory over Sacramento, a team with just as many problems as Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge continued his emergence as a marquee big man with a dominating 28-point performance, adding 12 boards and three blocks, as the Kings had little answer in the middle for the former Texas Longhorn.
If the Blazers hope to improve upon last season’s 32 wins, December may be the month where Portland has to make some kind of run. Portland plays just five road games next month, compared to 10 games at home, including a six-game home stand to help close out the month.
Those five road games are going to be tough, however. While most Portland State students will be stressing out over upcoming finals on Sunday, Dec. 2, Portland gets to study the unrelenting San Antonio Spurs, off to the best start in franchise history at 12-2. After dealing with the Spurs, the Blazers face Memphis Monday evening.
Each of the next two road games is the start of back-to-back games where the Blazers must travel to Portland immediately following a road tilt. Portland plays at Utah Dec. 11, then takes on Memphis at home Dec. 12. The Blazers also play at Denver Dec. 16, before returning home to take on New Orleans Dec. 17.
The funky travel schedule does have its advantages, though. Portland does not have a road trip longer than two games in December, compared to trips of three and four games in November. That’s a blessing, considering the Blazers average just 90 points and give up 98 points a game when playing away from Portland. Conversely, Rip City’s finest average 97.3 points and shoot almost 5 percent better (49.1 percent to 44.2 percent) while playing at home.
The Blazers play some difficult-but winnable-home games next month. Portland gets a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat Dec. 6, plus home matchups versus Utah, Denver and New Orleans. That’s the bad news, as each of those teams should be playoff bound.
The good news is that the Blazers have home tilts against Milwaukee, Golden State, Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Philly-teams that have a combined 25-49 record.
Seattle comes to town for a Christmas Day matchup that could have been epic. But No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden is out and No. 2 pick Kevin Durant’s Sonics are wallowing in a 2-12 start, so accept Seattle’s visit as just another Christmas gift.
The Milwaukee game, on Dec. 9, will give fans a chance to see Yi Jianlian, the Chinese forward who created a big fuss before finally signing with the Bucks. Apparently he’s quite talented and has helped lead Milwaukee to a 7-4 record, tops in the Central Division over perennial favorites Detroit and Cleveland.
Golden State has no problem scoring the ball, as the Warriors average more than 107 points per game. However, they also give up 109 points and present a very winnable contest when they come to Portland on Dec. 12.
Toronto is a 7-7 team that should provide an exciting matchup between Aldridge and fifth-year veteran Chris Bosh. The Minnesota game should be a laugher, and as an added bonus, the T-Wolves should still be without Randy Foye, who was picked by the Blazers and traded to Minnesota for Brandon Roy two draft days ago.
The Blazers end their six-game home stand against the 76ers, the team that coerced Portland into choking away a 25-point lead. Come see the Blazers exact revenge and say hi to former Portland head coach Maurice Cheeks, now leading the hapless 3-9 Sixers.
The fun times at home end in January, when the Blazers take their show on the road for nine games, including a brutal seven-game swing through the Eastern Conference. If the Blazers have any chance to make some noise in the Western Conference, they must capitalize on this relatively easy stretch.