Preview:January

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Preview:January
After the home loss to Boston, the Blazers will face soon to be arch rival New Orleans. This should be an awesome game. Tyson Chandler has the defensive skills to cause problems for Oden and West can be a nightmare on offense. Conversely, he can't stay with Aldridge defensively. Pedrag Stojakovich is going to get his points and Chris Paul will torch Portland again and again. At the same time, the Hornets have no answer for Roy or for the waves of talent Portland can pull from the bench. Look for the Hornets to win the scoring battle with the starters and Portland to dominate the bench scoring.

With so many talented offensive players on the floor, any game between these two teams has the potential to be one of those 120 point nights we see all too rarely in todays NBA, though the rugged, physical nature of play between guys like Chandler, Greg Oden, and Joel Przybilla could turn it into an 85-80 slugfest.

Coming off their loss to the Celtics, the Blazers will be hungry and will find the will to win this one.
20-13

Which is a good thing because they then head to L.A. to face the hated Lakers. Barring major injury issues, the Lakers should hold serve. In Portland L.A. will have tough battles, but in L.A. they should still prevail.
20-14

Back home to face the Pistons. This is the time of year when nobody wants to face the Pistons. They will have settled into their new rotations, they will be comfortable with their new coach, and they are still loaded with Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, and some developing younger players. In fact, I actually have Detroit down to win this one.
20-15

Next up will be Golden State. By now they should have Monta Ellis back. With Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, and Corey Maggette, Golden State can score plenty but stop little. Portland will rise up with a superior defensive effort and win handily.
21-15

The Blazers keep getting lengthy road trips. At this point, they have had 1 5 game home stand and one 3 game to go with road trips of 5, 4, and 3 games. Now they head out for 4 more, first up being Chicago.

Chicago is one of the few teams in the league who goes as deep at guard as Portland. With Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes, Sabo Sefolosha, and of course Rookie Derrick Rose, they go every bit as deep as Portland's Steve Blake, Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, Brandon Roy, and Rudy Fernandez. However, I think most GMs would take the Portland 5 over the Chicago 5. Either way, neither team has anything to be ashamed of.

By this game Martell Webster should be back in the starting line-up and be growing more comfortable. The Blazers should be playing pretty well with a good mix of inside-outside offense and getting their defensive rotations down. They will start the road trip off with a win.
22-15

Next up is Philadelphia. Last year it was the game in Philadelphia that set the Blazers season back several steps. When Portland blew a 20 point second half lead to come back and lose it changed the complexion of their early season. They went on to lose several games they otherwise would probably have won as their confidence was badly shaken.

This year, the 76ers are much better. It will be interesting to see what the addition of Elton Brand does for them. Some prognosticators have them going deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs. Maybe yes, maybe no. It does give them enough firepower that when the Blazers once again lose in Philly, this time it won't hurt as bad.
22-16

The next night is a game in New Jersey. Even though it is a road game and back to back, there is no reason Portland should ever lose this game. But they will. With the exception of Devin Harris, Portland is more talented at every position. This is the type of game that young teams often give up, where they know they will win but just forget to actually close the deal.
22-17

It will serve as a wake-up call, however, and they will go ballistic on the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats have some talent, they just have not figured out how to put it together yet. Maybe Larry Brown will be the answer. The one thing he can't answer is the overwhelming talent advantage Portland has.
23-17

Coming home from the road trip, the Blazers face the retooled Milwaukee Bucks. In unloading Ji Yianling, they rectified a Darko Milicic-like draft mistake and got a pretty good Small Forward in Richard Jefferson. People forget how young and good he is. Along with Michael Redd, the Bucks have some scoring punch. Unfortunately, outside of those two and maybe Andrew Bogut, the best thing the Bucks have going for them is the Energee...Portland should win handily.
24-17

Cleveland is completely the LeBron James show. They keep trying to build a team that works off his skill set. They keep putting together just enough that Cleveland is a top half of the Eastern Conference team that, if they catch a break, could return to the Finals. Ultimately, at some point every year they get exposed as being what they are...a decent team with a great player. That is more effective in the regular season than it is in the post-season and thus year after year they do well early while against teams LeBron can beat with less help and sometimes win a second series if one guy gets hot...

King James is also in the heads of the Blazers. Watch him rip their hearts out once again as they play well enough to win...except for stopping James when it matters. The Cavaliers win.
24-18

By this time the Blazers will be upset with how they are playing. They let one get away in the Cleveland game, let one get away in the New Jersey game, and now Washington is in town. Arenas will take too many ill-advised shots, the Blazers will play their team game and Roy will have an outstanding game to set the tone. From here out, the Blazers will play better ball the remainder of the season. Blazers beat Washington.
25-18

2 nights later they are in L.A. This time, though, it is the lowly Clippers. On the surface, the Clips look decent. Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Baron Davis...that is 3/5ths of a good starting line-up. And Cuttino Mobley still has some miles off the bench. Too bad they have to play 5 guys at a time... the Blazers win this one easily.
26-18

Back home to face Charlotte. If the Bobcats can't compete with a road-tripping Blazer team, they will get shelled by a home-standing team starting to make its move.
27-18

For the first time all year Portland has a 3 game win streak and is 9 games over .500. Into town comes Utah for their second meeting. This should be a very fun game and the Blazers, riding high, should close out the month with a win.

Wins in 6 of their last 7 games give the Blazers a 9-5 mark for the month and carry them to 28-18 mark.
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