Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/9/12
Who’s up next? The Portland Trail Blazers have made it through their first five games of the season, and while the results weren’t always what we wanted to see, the team remained competitive in each and every contest early in the year. The team now enters its second five-game stretch with a record of 2-3, and while the first of the bunch will be as tough as they come, the schedule is about to get much easier for this young Portland roster.    The Blazers open up their next 5-game stretch against Duncan and the Spurs (Photo: Randy Rasmussen/ Oregonian Nov. 10 vs. San Antonio Spurs The San Antonio Spurs are as hot as any team in the NBA, as they started their season 4-0 before dropping a game on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers. Tony Parker has been clutch, Tim Duncan is looking 10 years younger and Gregg Popovich has an NBA championship on his mind at this point in his storied career. The Trail Blazers will be put to the test against the Spurs, as it’s going to be a battle of which unit can control the pace throughout the contest. Portland loves to run an up-tempo style under head coach Terry Stotts, while Popovich has gone back to his roots and is playing a slow-it-down, methodical brand of basketball this season. The Blazers can push it in transition if they want, but the Spurs aren’t likely to fall into the speed trap of a young, energetic Portland squad. Nov. 12 vs. Atlanta Hawks The Atlanta Hawks started off their season by allowing 45 points to James Harden in a loss against the Houston Rockets, but they quickly bounced back and took down the Oklahoma City Thunder just a couple of nights later. This Hawks team has a different feel to it than in years past. With Joe Johnson gone, they’re running up and down the court and not worrying so much about getting the ball into their superstar’s hands. They put up a lot of points, as they have eight players averaging eight points or more at this juncture. The Blazers will look to take advantage of a poor defense by simply outscoring and out pacing the Hawks come Nov. 12. Nov. 13 @ Sacramento Kings The Sacramento Kings have not been good so far this season, but they’re going to challenge the Blazers on the block more than any team they’ve faced so far. Marcus Thornton may be the team’s leading perimeter scorer, but it’s DeMarcus Cousins who is going to look to do damage against Portland’s undersized frontcourt. He is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Blazers are set to take on the Rockets for the second time this season. (Photo: AP) The bright side for Portland is that the Kings are near the basement of the league in scoring. They average just 92.8 points per game, so if the Blazers come out and play their own style and don’t worry about the big men in the middle, this should be a team they can take advantage of. Nov. 16 vs. Houston Rockets Portland has already faced the Houston Rockets once this season, but this time the Blazers have home-court advantage. The first contest went to overtime and saw the team from Rip City pull off their first road win of the season. They started a second-half comeback in the third quarter, and they carried the momentum with them all the way to the final buzzer. The Blazers may have kept James Harden below his season average the first time around, but the 2-guard still managed to record 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Stopping Harden is crucial when playing Houston, as their young roster doesn’t have many places to look if their go-to option is having an off-night. Nov. 18 vs. Chicago Bulls The Chicago Bulls may be without Derrick Rose, but they’ve shown that they can still dominate the competition early in the 2012-13 season. In typical Tom Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls are one of the top defensive teams in the league this year. They allow just 90.4 points per game, which is good enough for fifth-best in the NBA. Portland likes to get up and down the court and score in transition, which is something they must continue to do against such an elite defensive squad. The Trail Blazers have faced nothing but playoff teams—or near playoff teams—thus far, so having a few opponents who are “more their size” will be a good test as to where this team stands at this point in the season. The real relief, however, comes following this set of games when the team faces off against the likes of the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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