Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 2/13/13
All-Star Weekend nears The Portland Trail Blazers will face off against the New Orleans Hornets to conclude a six-game road trip Wednesday night, and they could desperately use a win heading into All-Star Weekend. Matchup: Portland (25-27) @ New Orleans (18-34) Venue: New Orleans Arena Time: 5:00 PM PT Date: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 The road trip hasn’t gone as well as fans hoped, but a matchup against a winnable team could be enough to spark some energy for the second-half push. Game Notes/How They Match Up Damian Lillard hit the game-winning jumper on Dec. 16 against the Hornets. (Photo: Bruce Ely/The Oregonian) We all remember how things ended the last time these two faced off. Damian Lillard put in an impressive game-winning three-point dagger, and Portland walked away with a one-point victory over its Western Conference opponent. In that contest, the Hornets trailed by as much as 16 before forcing the rookie point guard to win the game late. Both teams shot well from the field, but the Blazers were outscored by 11 in the final period. On the season, the Blazers have been the better offensive squad. Part of that is the injury-riddled year being had by Hornets guard Eric Gordon, but the other part is that they simply don’t have many go-to options. The Blazers have four players you can trust with the ball at any time, and that’s something New Orleans can’t say night in and night out. Despite having Anthony Davis on the roster, the Hornets haven’t been a good rebounding team this season. That’s why J.J. Hickson had one of his best games of the year the last time they faced off (24 PTS, 16 REB), and that’s why he’ll look to do so again come Wednesday. What to Watch: Portland Damian Lillard may be just 52 games into his rookie season, but it’s become painfully clear that when he struggles to perform, so does the team as a whole. The point guard played arguably the worst game of his young career against the Orlando Magic, and the team gave Orlando its first win in 13 tries. However, Lillard bounced back against the Miami Heat, and he’s a big reason the team was competitive until the final minutes of the contest. Once he’s established a rythm in the offense, that’s when he should look to attack. He is as dangerous as it comes as a scorer, and if he’s feeling it, he’ll have the green light to take over late. What to Watch: New Orleans The Trail Blazers aren’t the only team that will look to explot the point guard position. Everybody knows that Damian Lillard’s strength is on offense, and if Greivis Vasquez can play as well as he did last time they faced off, he’ll be an integral part of the Hornets’ success. In round 1 of this battle, Vasquez finished with 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He took advantage of Lillard almost the entire way, and it was clear that no one else on the team was truly capable of duplicating his ability to facilitate. Vasquez isn’t historically a 23 points-per-game scorer, but he is hands down their top assists player. He averages 9.4 assists on a team that is 22nd in the league in that particular category. LaMarcus Aldridge will challenge Anthony Davis come Wednesday night. (Photo: Bruce Ely?The Oregonian) The matchup at the point guard position is going to be important in this one, and whichever player comes up with the better game will give his team a serious edge Wednesday night. Key Matchup LaMarcus Aldridge is going to have his hands full whether he’s matched up Anthony Dais or Ryan Anderson come Wednesday night. Offensively, Anderson has the edge over Davis. He is coming off a 31-point performance, in which he shot 13-of-21 from the field, and he nailed five of his nine three-point attempts. When he’s matched up against LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers’ forward will have to step out to the perimeter, which will ultimately limit rebounding opportunities down low. Defensively, Davis has the edge. Anderson picked up two blocks in his most recent game, but we’ll consider that an amomaly after looking at his blocks-per-game average of .3. Davis, on the other hand, is averaging nearly two blocks per contest, and he managed to record four—to go along with eight rebounds—in his most recent outing. Each of these players will provide Aldridge with a different challenge, but if the Blazers want to go into the All-Star Break with momentum on their side, the big man has to play well regardless of who he’s playing. Injury Report Portland: N/A New Orleans: DAY-TO-DAY—Eric Gordon Prediction According to The Columbian’s Candace Buckner, LaMarcus Aldridge called this a “make-or-break” road trip. Losing this game won’t destroy the team’s hopes of the postseason, but a win will do a ton for their confidence following All-Star Weekend. Blazers 94 – Hornets 89 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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