The Mavs are in a position they likely wish they would have been in last season. No, not squeezing by and making the playoffs, but clinching with only a few games left, thus keeping them on their toes and forcing them to head into the playoffs speeding up instead of slowing down. For that situation, the Blazers are an ideal opponent for the Mavs tonight. Portland provides good competition and bring challenges for the Mavs, but they aren't going to make the playoffs and aren't good enough for the game to seem too important for the Mavs. The matchup can allow the Mavs to practice some more things against a worthy, albeit flawed opponent. The Mavs have taken two of their three meetings this season.
For more on Brandon Roy's return, LaMarcus Aldridge's emergence and Joel Przybilla's broken hand after the jump:
Brandon Roy missed four games with a groin injury recently, but returned in his last three games to play quite well. In Portland's win against the Lakers Tuesday, Roy had 23 points and 12 assists and continues to give the Blazers a lot to look forward to. A group that will include Roy, LaMarcus Aldrige and Greg Oden will likely be depended upon to carry the Blazers for years to come, and their lottery pick this season should be another interesting story line to follow.
Speaking of Aldridge...
Lots of people seem to give LaMarcus Aldridge a lot of grief for being soft and not being a strong-arm, back-to-the-basket post player. But, that just isn't his game, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Once the Blazers get a strong post presence (Oden) to pair up with him, it should free Aldridge up to continue his improvement and play his game better. He's played well lately and is continuing as the season improves, which is obviously a good sign. His last two games have seen him with big double-doubles of 24 points, 15 rebounds and 22 points, 16 rebounds. Aldridge is due for a big breakout in the 2008-09 season.
Center Joel Przybilla had been a pleasant surprise in the second half of the season and the Blazers have to be positive about his contributions heading into next season. Big man depth is crucial, and with Przybilla averaging 5.3 points and 11.6 rebounds on 61.7 percent shooting in the month of March, the Blazers have to be confident in him backing up Oden. This season, however, is over for Przybilla. He broke his hand on the rim when trying to block a shot Sunday against the Spurs and is done for the year.
Will Greg Oden come back 100 percent next season?