By Jonathan Ryan Davis
1) Finding Kryptonite: Dwight Howard is not human. He is a physical specimen that makes me lose motivation to go to the gym because I know I will never get that ripped. I kind of feel sorry for his mother, because I can only image how difficult the birthing process must have been. He is HUGE. To win tonight's game against the Orlando Magic, Portland must figure out how to neutralize Howard. A smaller, less skilled, dominant big man came to town last week when Portland popooed the Lakers; and how did they control Andrew Bynum? Kurt Thomas. Kurt Thomas will be Howard's kryptonite tonight. Thomas, as savvy as vets come, realized he could front Bynum to play deny-defense, and he relied on great help defense to trap Bynum when he did get the ball. Portland needs to install similar defensive packages tonight to stop Howard. Quite simply, if the Blazers control Howard, they win. If Howard goes off, game over.
2) Batum's Role in the Rotation: Much is being written throughout the media about the lack of playing time the smooth and long Nicolas Batum is receiving. Last night's game was a great example of how Batum was under-utilized. Batum was an impact player in the first half, playing aggressive, smart offense (9 points) and savvy defense (drawing some of the questionable calls Josh eluded to in the recap). And Batum's reward for that solid play? A cozy seat from courtside to watch the Blazers pull out a good win. Batum deserves to play at least 25-30 minutes a game. He can play the 2 or 3. He is a lock-down defender, a solid outside shooter, and he is quickly improving his game in terms of creating his own shot. That being said, Nate McMillan has a luxury this season. He has a deep, talented roster. When that is the case, McMillan should use the personnel, on that given day, that will help the Blazers win. The only players that must play a minimum of 30 minutes each night are Aldridge and Wallace. Yes, Batum has earned more minutes, and in order to continue his development, he needs more minutes; but this may not be the year to demand a certain number of minutes for each player. This year is about becoming a unit...a team that can beat any team on any night. A team that can make a legit run in the playoffs.
3) 48 Minutes (or more if overtime): It is time for Portland to play an entire game. McMillan keeps harping on this point and he is right. Portland has yet to play a complete game from tip to final buzzer. For the most part, it has been the first quarter the Blazers have overlooked and the fourth quarter has been a time they decide to play 100%. If you're going to only play part of a game, that's the way to do it; the Blazers' 7-2 start illustrates this point. Tonight, my gut tells me we will see our first 48 minute game. Playing the second of a back-to-back while our opponent got a day of rest, odds are Portland loses without 48 minutes of effort.
4) Josh's Prediction: Blazers 97, Magic 92. His promise: "Every time I get the score correct I will donate $100 to a charity of your choosing."