Scouting Report: Portland Trail Blazers
The Hawks are back at it on Wednesday, facing the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time this season.
Portland, like Atlanta’s opponent on Sunday, is playing terrific basketball this season. Remarkably, four of their five starters have started all 60 games, and LaMarcus Aldridge has missed just five after suffering a minor groin injury after the All-Star break. This team has stayed remarkably healthy, and that has contributed to their 41-19 record, including 5-1 in their last six. Head coach Terry Stotts, a former Hawks head coach, has to be in serious Coach of the Year contention.
I mentioned Aldridge, and he continues to build on what is becoming a very solid NBA career He’s averaging a career-high in points (23.7) and rebounds (11.2), leading the team in both categories. He’s tough on both ends of the floor, offensively because his size allows him to post up smaller power forwards as well as step out for a nice mid-range jumper, and defensively because he’s able to alter shots with his length.
Another reason’s for the boost in Aldridge’s offensive numbers could be the play of All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. Last year’s Rookie of the Year is building upon an impressive first season with an even better one. Joining Aldridge in averaging over 21 points, Lillard is also handing out more than five assists per contest. As was the case with Goran Dragic on Sunday, Jeff Teague can’t afford to leave Lillard. He’s shooting better than 40 percent from three and trailing only Steph Curry in makes, and with 412 attempts, he’s clearly not afraid to let it rip.
Portland’s other three-point weapon is Lillard’s backcourt mate Wesley Matthews. It should be a fun battle between him and fellow sharpshooter Kyle Korver, as you’ll have two shooting guards trying to chase each other off screens all night.
The Hawks have had trouble with big teams without Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Pero Antic or Gustavo Ayon available, and the Blazers’ frontcourt combo of Aldridge and emerging center Robin Lopez certainly qualify as big. Atlanta is going to have to clean up the boards well to have a chance.
The Blazers lead the league in scoring, so they’re dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous when the bench comes in. The starters are averaging more than 85 of their 107 points per game, so the Hawks are going to have to win the bench points battle to stay close.
Portland is the only team the Hawks haven’t faced this season. The Blazers will be in Atlanta for a rematch on March 27.
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