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The Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t possibly blow it against the Brooklyn Nets. Or, could they? Game preview

OregonLive.com logo OregonLive.com 8/13/2020 By Aaron Fentress, oregonlive.com

The Portland Trail Blazers can conclude the seeding session of the NBA restart in eighth place heading into the play-in round by defeating the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night.

Should Portland lose, other scenarios must take place in order for the Blazers to remain alive in ninth place.

But those scenarios should be irrelevant because given all that this team has been through this season, there is no way the Blazers (34-39) should, or even could, blow this game.

Or, could they?

Much like how Blazers’ star Damian Lillard called for the media to put some respect on his name after dropping 61 points on Dallas Tuesday night, the Nets deserve some respect thrown their way after what they’ve shown at the NBA bubble.

Brooklyn (35-36) hobbled into the restart without several key players, including Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie. Yet, in Florida they are 5-2, matching Portland’s record.

The Nets’ record includes wins over the Eastern Conference No 1 seed, Milwaukee Bucks, and the West’s No. 2 seed, the Los Angeles Clippers.

For sure, the Nets have nothing to play for other than the chance to play spoiler. But we’ve already seen one team, the Clippers, defeat Portland minus their best player, Kawhi Leonard, and after sitting its other All-Star, Paul George in the final minutes. We’ve also witnessed Philadelphia nearly pull off a win over Portland despite being without All-Star forward Ben Simmons and after losing All-Star center Joel Embiid in the first quarter.

Nets guard Chris LeVert isn’t a household name, but he is dangerous. He had 27 points and 13 assists during a 129-120 win over the Clippers and he scored 34 against Washington.

In a 108-96 win over Orlando, the Nets’ bench scored 63 points.

Guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who is averaging 7.5 points for the season, put up 26 on the Bucks while making 5 of 7 three-pointers.

The bottom line is that on paper, Portland should win this game. But if the Blazers let down their guard at all, they will most certainly lose.

Blazers vs. Nets preview:

What: Portland Trail Blazers (34-39) vs. Brooklyn Nets (35-36), 6 p.m. PT Thursday.

here: AdventHealth Arena, Orlando, Wesley Chapel, Florida.

TV channel: NBC Sports Northwest (In Portland: Comcast 37/737), TNT (54/754)

Radio: Rip City Radio (KPOJ/620 AM)

How to watch live stream online: You can watch this game live with your cable provider login information on NBC Sports Live, or you can watch the game live for FREE with FuboTV (free trial). You can also get this game on Hulu + Live (free trial), if you prefer those platforms and their pricing plans. There are a variety of other streaming options you can try: www.nba.com/blazers/watch.

LILLARD LEGEND

Portland guard Damian Lillard became the first Trail Blazer and only the 12th player in history to score 50 points or more in back-to-back games when he had 51 against the Clippers on Sunday and 61 Tuesday against Dallas.

That list consists of Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan, Bernard King, Kobe Bryant, Antawn Jamison, Allen Iverson, Bradley Beal, James Harden and Devin Booker.

Lillard has now scored at least 50 points on 10 occasions, tied with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for ninth most in NBA history.

SPEAKING OF BIG LILLARD GAMES

The Nets and Blazers have met one time this season with Brooklyn winning 119-115 at Portland on Nov. 8. Lillard went for 60 points in that game on 19 of 33 shooting.

The Blazers lost primarily because Irving went for 33 points and Dinwiddie scored in 34.

But, as previously mentioned, neither man joined the Nets at the bubble.

CJ MCCOLLUM AILING

The Blazers’ guard has not appeared to be his usual self for much of this run at the bubble, but Tuesday saw his worst game yet. McCollum scored just eight points on 2 of 14 shooting but did sink key two free throws late in the game.

NBC Sports Northwest reported Tuesday night that McCollum is suffering from a fractured back. So far, it has not impacted his availability, which is why the injury has not appeared on an injury report.

If McCollum continues to be hindered by this injury, it’s difficult to imagine Portland making much of a run against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs should the Blazers get that far.

ICE COLD GARY TRENT

Following Gary Trent’s 27-point performance Aug. 6 against Denver, Lillard said that eventually his teammate’s three-point shooting would cool off. Lillard’s words were stated as more of a matter-of-fact statement than a slight.

And, he eventually was proven correct. The following game against the Clippers, Trent scored 22 points while making 6 of 10 three-point shots. He left that game shooting 62 percent from three-point range at the bubble.

Since, he has made just 2 of 12 three-point shots while scoring just five against Philadelphia and 11 against Dallas to bring his bubble three-point shooting percentage down to still an impressive 50 percent.

With McCollum struggling, Portland will need Trent to get hot again.

INJURY REPORT

Blazers: Forwards Trevor Ariza and Caleb Swanigan opted out of the NBA bubble.

Nets: Chris Chiozza (right abductor tightness) and Donta Hall (right ankle sprain) are questionable. Jamal Crawford (hamstring) is out.

-- Aaron Fentress 5/8 afentress@Oregonian.com 5/8 @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).

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