Can Brandon Roy lead into the second round of the playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Portland Trail Blazers have had another successful NBA regular season as they were able to crack the 50 win mark and head into the playoffs with the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Even though the Blazers were looking good heading into the postseason, their best all around player Brandon Roy went down with a knee injury just before the playoffs and was thought to miss the entire first round against the Phoenix Suns.

In the first game of their seven game series with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to pull off the upset and beat the Suns on their home floor at US Airways Arena in Arizona.

This game one victory was a big surprise to say the least as the Blazers basically were thought to be dominated by the Suns without Brandon Roy in the lineup. Fortunately for Portland, point guard Andre Miller had a career night by scoring 31 points and dishing out eight assists. Ultimately Miller’s inspired performance was enough to lead the Blazers to a 105-100 victory.

Even though the Blazers seemed to have momentum on their side heading into game two against the Suns, Phoenix had no intentions of going to Portland down 2-0 as they absolutely dominated the Blazers and took game two with a 29 point blowout 119-90.

Obviously, after this blowout victory in game two by the Phoenix Suns the power shifted back to Steve Nash and company in this series and the balance was restored.
In game three, the series headed to the Rose Garden in Portland which is arguably one of the toughest places to play in the NBA. With the Blazers getting dominated in game two, it was thought that they would be able to go up 2-1 in game three as they would be playing in front of their hostile home crowd, but the Suns came out and dominated again with a 19 point victory 108-89.

Needless to say, many people believed this series was over as the Portland Trail Blazers just looked tired and outmatched and on the verge of elimination. Even though the consensus was that it was just a matter of time before the Phoenix Suns would advance to the second round, game four was a breath of fresh air for Nate McMillan’s squad as the Blazers witnessed the return of Brandon Roy.

Coming into this series with the Phoenix Suns, the Portland Trail Blazers got the news that Brandon Roy would miss the first round with a knee injury which required surgery. Even though most people that have knee surgery need a good amount of time before they can fully recover, Roy was determined to get back on the basketball floor. Just eight days before game four, Brandon Roy underwent surgery on his knee, but apparently that was enough time to heal up and get ready to lead his team to victory in game four.

Despite reports of Brandon Roy possibly starting game four, the All-Star guard ended up coming off the bench instead and playing a total of 27 minutes in which he scored 10 points. Even though 10 points isn’t much, just the presence of Roy helped power forward LaMarcus Aldridge get some open shots.

Ultimately, Roy coming back early was a good idea for the Blazers as they were able to even up the series at 2-2 and give hope to Portland that this series is not over yet!

NBA Playoff Previews – Western Conference

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

LA Lakers vs (8) Oklahoma City

Tough match-up for the Lakers. Oklahoma City’s talented young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green will wreck havoc on the Lakers’ currently confused defense. There are two things intriguing about this series: Kobe Bryant, the Lakers best player, can be slowed down by the Thunders best defender, Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha has the right length to bother Kobe’s jumpers and the right speed to stay in front of him. I can hear Lakers fans saying, “Stopping Kobe in the playoffs? No way!”. Well, this isn’t 2006 Kobe where he was at his physical peak. Remember 2008? 2008 MVP Kobe was stopped by the Boston Celtics in the Finals, so there. Ha! Kobe was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Thunder in the last time these two teams played against each other.

Kevin Durant, the Thunders best player, cannot be contained by the Lakers’ best defender, Ron Artest. Durant has averaged 25 points against the Lakers. Although I’m still giving Artest the benefit of a doubt that he can still shut down one of the league’s best scorers. For all we know Artest may be channeling his inner Dennis Rodman with the blonde ‘do he’s sporting

This series is dubbed as “Durant vs Kobe”, but the real key for the Lakers is Pau Gasol and for the Thunder it’s Russell Westbrook. Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka can’t guard Gasol. It’s up to the Lakers to keep feeding it to the 7-foot Spaniard in the post.

Phil Jackson’s reluctance to curb Derek Fisher’s minutes will be bad for the Lakers. Fisher can’t guard a stationary lamp post and Westbrook is one of the quickest players in the league. The Lakers medical team better give Fisher some goggles to protect his eyes from the dust Westbrook will be leaving in his path. Westbrook exploded against the Lakers in their last regular season game.

The Lakers will have their hands full and will need six down to the wire games to eliminate the Thunder.

Dallas Mavericks vs (7) San Antonio Spurs

The Mavs have the greatest chance of beating the Lakers. They are a complete team and versatile at every position. Their midseason acquisition of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson have reaped nothing but benefits. On the other flip of the coin, San Antonio’s acquisition of Richard Jefferson has been highly disappointing. Jefferson has been unable to adjust accordingly to Coach Popovich’s system.

Some say never doubt the Spurs in the playoffs, but realistically, their window has already closed. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have been nagged by injuries and have not played a decent game after the All-Star break. Manu Ginobili has played great the past month but his age (32) and mileage make it hard to believe that he’s ready to take a lot of contact in the playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki may have a tougher than expected series against the defense of Jefferson. Caron Butler and Jason Terry are the keys for the Mavs.

Dajuan Blair will have a big series for the Spurs, but Duncan and Parker need additional support from George Hill and Antonio McDyess. Don’t be surprised if the Mavericks win the series in five games. Stick a fork in the Spurs, they are done. It’s time to rebuild.

Phoenix Suns vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers

It’s a shame that Brandon Roy’s injury will greatly diminish the Blazers chances to advance to the second round. His presence would’ve made this an exciting series. Instead, we’ll see the Suns run Portland out the gym.

The Blazers don’t have the depth to keep up with the Suns up-and-down game. The return of Leandro Barbosa and Jason Richardson’s great play recently couldn’t come at a better time. The Blazers success will depend heavily on veterans Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, but their old legs will not be enough to outlast the Suns. Suns in five game.

Denver Nuggets vs (5) Utah Jazz

Carmelo Anthony must’ve been smiling on his way to the court for Game 1 against the Jazz. There was no one capable of guarding him after Andrei Kirilenko re-injured his calf strain. Anthony faced a combination of Kyle Korver, CJ Miles and Wesley Matthews and proceeded to drop 42 on the Jazz. The Jazz also had no answer for JR Smith, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets can heat up in a heartbeat and the Jazz found that out in Game 1.

Aside from losing Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur left the second quarter of Game 1 after re-injuring his Achilles’. Even if the Jazz lost to the Nuggets, I still believe this will be a long series. The Jazz have a better coach in Jerry Sloan. He will make the necessary adjustments for Utah. Unlike with the Nuggets, who will miss George Karl sooner rather than later.

Interesting series. The Jazz will come back to win in six games. Carmelo Anthony may be the best player in the series, but Smith’s streak shooting and inconsistency will be detrimental for the Nuggets.

NBA Playoff Preview: Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers are two teams in the Western Conference that always seem to get into playoff contention. This season is no different as both the Blazers and the Suns are back in the playoffs square off in a first-round battle.

Over the past couple of years or so, Steve Nash and company have struggled to get back to the dominant ways as they have been restricted from playing their classic run and gun offense which gave them so much success in the past.

Fortunately, the Suns have been able to get back to their high-powered offense has worked well as a veiled compete with the best in the West which they haven’t been able to do over the two previous seasons.

Coming into this season the Phoenix Suns were thought to be a team on a serious decline as it seemed like we were witnessing the end of the Steve Nash era in the valley of the sun. Even though no one expected much of the Phoenix Suns this season, they have arguably been the surprise team in the Western Conference along with the young and upcoming Oklahoma City Thunder.

As a result of the Suns success this season, Phoenix has clinched the third seed in the Western Conference which is no easy feat competing with teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite of all the competition and talk of the end of an era in Phoenix, the Suns have played extremely well this season and will be put to the test in the first round the playoffs against one of the best home teams in the NBA in the Portland Trail Blazers.

Even though clinching the sixth seed in the Western Conference was impressive to say the least for the Blazers, Portland will have an uphill battle from here on out as they will be going up against Steve Nash and company in the first round without arguably their best all around player in Brandon Roy.

Not only is trying to contain the Phoenix Suns run and gun offense a daunting task, but doing it without Brandon Roy and center Greg Oden seems like a virtual impossibility.

As it was for many teams in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers were uncertain of their seeding before the playoffs matchups were set and they still had to play with the same intensity and desire to win to improve their standing in the West.

Unfortunately, as a result of the Blazers shooting for a higher playoff seed, they lost Brandon Roy to a knee injury that required surgery and will not have him in the first round against the Phoenix Suns.

Even though the Blazers will be able to give the Suns a run for their money in the first round without Brandon Roy, I believe the injury is devastating enough to end Portland’s season as the Suns will be able to focus on LaMarcus Aldridge and unless the Blazers role players step up, they will be heading home early.

Series Prediction: 4-1 Phoenix Suns

Can the Portland Trail Blazers compete with the Phoenix Suns without Brandon Roy?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

One of the most disappointing realities in professional sports today is the possibility of injuries heading into the postseason. No matter what teams do to avoid or prevent injuries, it is just something that happens and it’s inevitable and many cases.

Even though injuries are just part of the game in a matter what sport it is, some teams just seem to be cursed it comes to big name players constantly watching from the bench said if contributing on the floor.

One of those teams in the NBA is the Portland Trail Blazers as ever single-season they seem to be played with injuries that prevent them from getting to the next level in the extremely competitive Western Conference.

When the Blazers are healthy they are without a doubt a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference as they have a talented young core of players that continue to improve with every passing season. The problem is that their best all around player and their former number one draft pick up a few years ago continue to be injury prone and out of the lineup when the team needs him the most.

About three years ago the Portland Trail Blazers have the first overall pick in the NBA draft. It was a big debate on who should go number one as they were two very talented players available in scoring machine Kevin Durant out of Texas hand the next best center in the league in Greg Oden out of Ohio State.

No matter which player you thought was better or which player you thought should have been picked first for the Blazers, everyone seemed to have a valid argument in the debate on who should have been picked first was dead even.

Ultimately, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to go with promising young center Greg Oden as they already had arguably one of the best guards in the league in Brandon Roy which most likely prevented them from taking Kevin Durant.

Three years later, Kevin Durant is arguably one of the best players in the league and has become the youngest player ever to win a scoring title in the NBA. Greg Oden on the other hand has even been able to finish a full 82 game season for the Blazers yet.

Even though it’s pretty obvious that he Portland Trail Blazers would have been a better team with Kevin Durant on the roster, they are still amongst the best teams in the Western Conference and are the sixth seed heading into the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.

Unfortunately, the Blazers will be without both Greg Oden and Brandon Roy for the first round matchup with Steve Nash and company. This is a huge hit to say the least, the team anticipated being without Oden, but not without Roy who is arguably their best all around player biggest offensive threat at 21.5 points per game.

Without Brandon Roy in the lineup, the Blazers the Portland will be looking towards power forward LaMarcus Aldridge for leadership on the floor at points on the board. This may be the biggest deciding factor in this first round matchup between the Suns and the Blazers.

Despite not having Brandon Roy for the first round playoffs, I do believe the Blazers can compete and beat the Suns in a seven-game series, but the scales differently tilt in Phoenix’s favor as they have the experience and the firepower to overcome the Blazers youth.

What’s the key to the Thunder’s sudden resurgence?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Thunder will make their first playoff appearance in its young existence. Oklahoma City is currently the sixth seed in the west but are locked in a three-way battle with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Well, it doesn’t really matter what seed they will end up in because the Thunder are young, athletic and skilled, which makes them a very dangerous first-round opponent.

Obviously, their success can be attributed by the sudden explosion of Kevin Durant. Durant went from rising star last season to an MVP candidate. He will likely win his first scoring title this season. Forward Jeff Green is averaging 15 points a ball game and Russell Westbrook is having a career year. These three young guns are a big reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs.

It’s their offense that gets a lot of recognition, but its actually the Thunder’s defense which makes them dangerous. The Thunder allows only 97.6 points a game, which is good enough for 11th in the league. There’s not one individual on Oklahoma City that is a great defender. But as a team the Thunder are a cohesive, effective defensive unit.

Against the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder held them to their lowest scoring output in the second half – the Suns scored only 34 points. The young Oklahoma City Thunder also held the Suns under 100 points. Two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-star Amar’e Stoudemire were forced into committing five combined turnovers.

All you need to know about what the Thunder defense did to the Suns offense is this: the Suns shot 58 percent in first and second quarters. After that, Phoenix shot only 31 percent. Durant and Green had seven steals – amazing considering they are both forwards.

This years Thunder reminds us much of last seasons Portland Trail Blazers. Exciting crowd, budding superstar in Durant (in the Blazers case Brandon Roy), and a core group of young talented guys. All of this resulted in first-round fodder.

Durant, in particular, had no turnovers on his way to scoring 35 points. It’s been a joy to watch Durant this season. There are already talks that is he the second best player in the league – yes, in front of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. This statement might be a reach considering Durant has played at this level for only one season. Plus, greatness can’t be measured during the season, it is seen where it counts – in the playoffs.

Durant and the Thunder will get the opportunity to prove exactly that as they make their first playoff appearance in history.

Can the Houston Rockets knock off the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth spot in the West?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Ever since Hakeem Olajuwon retired from the Houston Rockets back in the 90s, the team that dominated while Michael Jordan was taking a break to play baseball by winning two straight titles, has been trying to get back to title contender status in the NBA.

Unfortunately, even though the Houston Rockets had big name players like Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, they have been unable to do anything, but lose in the early in the playoffs.

Before last season, the Houston Rockets had lost in consecutive years in the first round of the playoffs a lot of the blame went directly to Tracy McGrady as everyone looked at him like the leader. Well, the injuries though it up a McGrady’s body and the Rockets decided it was time to move on and traded him to the New York Knicks this season before the NBA trade deadline on February 18th.

This trade in the works or at least a trade involving Tracy McGrady ever since the NBA season have started this year, but Houston have been unable to find a team willing to take on McGrady’s $23 million dollar expiring contract. Fortunately, the Knicks were willing to do such a thing pulled the trigger of a trade which ultimately brought Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Carl Landry and Tracy McGrady.

Since the trade the Houston Rockets have looked pretty impressive, but they are still the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. As always in the Western Conference is a competitive race come playoff time as are so many good teams and only eight spots for the postseason.

At the bottom half you have the Portland Trail Blazers at the eighth spot and the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets fighting to knock off Brandon Roy and company before the end of the NBA regular season.

As of right now, the Houston Rockets have gone ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the final spot in the Western Conference, but are still five games behind the Portland Trail Blazers.

Their only 14 games left in the NBA regular season for the Houston Rockets which is a much to make up five games and clinch the final spot in the Western Conference, but they have won seven of their last 10 games and it could be possible to catch up to the Portland Trail Blazers if they keep playing solid basketball.

Realistically though, I can’t see the Portland Trail Blazers struggling enough to where they would give the Houston Rockets a chance to close the gap before the 14 games is over.

The Blazers may have been dealing with injuries all season long to Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and a few other key players, but they are a five-game winning streak right now and looking pretty good heading into the end of the NBA regular season which leads me to believe that no intentions of giving up that eighth spot and will most likely head into the playoffs to face the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

Can the Portland Trail Blazers beat the defending champs in a seven games series?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Coming into the NBA playoffs this season the Portland Trail Blazers will have a their work cut out for them as if the seeding in the Western Conference remains the same at the end of the regular season, Brandon Roy and company will go up against the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Usually any team that faces the NBA champs in the first round of playoffs will be hoping to win at least one game, but the Blazers will come into this playoff series with hope of pulling off the upset as they have had more success against the Los Angeles Lakers than any other team on their home floor in Portland.

It wasn’t until this season, the first game that Kobe Bryant missed with an ankle injury in early February, that the defending champs were able to get the best of the Blazers at the Rose Garden. This wasn’t the first time that the Lakers have beaten the Blazers on their home floor, but it was the first time in five years.

Being able to beat a team as dominant as the Lakers over a five year span is impressive to say the least and that will be the one thing both teams will be thinking about if they do end up facing off against each other in the postseason.

The defending NBA Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the best team in the NBA right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers would have something to say about that, but it would be hard to argue that the Lakers couldn’t beat LeBron James and company in a seven-game series.

Obviously that’s getting a little bit ahead of ourselves as that matchup could only have been in the NBA finals now, but the defending champs will have their sights set on Brandon Roy and company heading into the playoffs as it looks almost inevitable the two will meet in the first round.

The Portland Trail Blazers are the last team the Los Angeles Lakers want to see in the playoffs as their history is enough to make Kobe Bryant and his squad want to stay away from the Rose Garden for good.

Despite the Lakers not wanting to face the Blazers in the first round, if the Houston Rockets can’t find away to snag the eighth spot from Portland, Los Angeles will have their work cut out for them in the first round.

Even though Los Angeles Lakers success at the Rose Garden is less than impressive, I believe regardless of who they face throughout the entire playoffs, including the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant and company are on their way to the second consecutive NBA title as the likelihood of any team being able to end their repeat hopes is not looking good.

The one team in the Western Conference but I do believe can give the defending champs a run for their money in the postseason is the Denver Nuggets as they seem like the only team in the West that can play a physical game with the Lakers.

It is that physicality that seems to get Los Angeles another game plan and it been pretty successful over the past couple of seasons. It all remains to be seen though still have a few more weeks left in the NBA regular season and anything can happen.

Are the Blazers big men cursed?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

There a lot of teams in the NBA that are injury prone or have players that sustain a lot of injuries throughout an NBA season, but regardless of how bad injuries can be, NBA teams always have to get through the regular season with what they’re given.

There quite a few teams in the NBA today that have to deal with constant injuries to some of their best players, but the one team that seems to be plagued with injuries year in and year out is the Portland Trail Blazers who have been without their promising young center Greg Oden the last three seasons as he has dealt with a knee and ankle injuries throughout his short career in the NBA.

A couple of seasons ago, the Blazers took a gamble on an injury prone center out of Ohio State instead of drafting scoring machine in Kevin Durant from Texas. As a result, the Blazers have had an off again on again problem with keeping Greg Oden healthy and on the floor. When Oden is on the floor he’s as good as anybody at the center position, but that he hasn’t been able to stand the test of time so far in only three short years with the Portland Trail Blazers.

When the Blazers started this NBA regular season, Greg Oden was healthy and looking to prove that he is still can be a dominant center in this league, but like the two previous seasons, including his rookie season, Oden went down early and has yet to get back on the floor for his team. There is still a slight possibility that he might get back healthy, but it’s doubtful his history of injuries.

This didn’t worry Blazers too much this season, besides the fact they wasted a number one overall pick couple of years ago because they had backup center Joel Przybilla to play in place of the injured Greg Oden, but unfortunately, Przybilla went down as well with a season ending injury.

This left the Portland trailblazers and one hell of a dilemma as they really needed someone to fill the void left in the paint after both Oden and Przybilla went down for the year.

Fortunately, the Blazers were able to make a trade before the deadline on February 18 by sending point guard Steve Blake and forward Travis Outlaw to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for center Marcus Camby and his expiring contract.

We a few seasons ago, Camby was one of the best defensive players in the league with the Denver Nuggets. The seven footer out of the University of Massachusetts was a shot blocking and rebounding beast in the paint for the Nuggets which hasn’t exactly carried over to the Clippers, but at times he is still one of the best centers in the league, especially the defensive end of the floor.

Not only was can be a great addition to an already hurting defense, he also brings veteran leadership and an expiring contract that will be great for the Blazers come this summer when they try and sign a free agent in what is thought to be one of the most talented free agent markets in NBA history.

Even though getting Marcus Camby was a good move for the Blazers, for some reason Portland is just cursed when it comes to big men as he has also gone down with an ankle sprain that could give out considerable amount of time.

It is uncertain how serious Marcus Camby’s ankle injury is, but one thing is for certain, the Blazers just have no luck this season when it comes to staying healthy as All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy has also struggled trying to stay healthy this season.

Despite all their injury problems of the past couple of seasons, the Blazers have been as resilient as any other team in the NBA and will still probably make a run for the playoffs in the second half of the regular season, but they will need Marcus Camby in the paint in order for them to make it out of the first round of playoffs was it were able to do last season against the Houston Rockets.