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Open Thread and Contest: 49

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Regular Season Game 49
Trailblazers (21-30) at Wizards (28-20)
Verizon Center
1 PM
Nothing (thanks ABC!)

We obviously know that this is no ordinary regular-season game, and there are some who (half-jokingly) believe the NBA should make sure this game is on TV.  There's no argument here from me on that front (although I can't watch anyway, I'm on assignment for the school paper).

But for some reason, I'm really concerned about this one.  Arenas was strangely absent when reporters came to question him, and Ivan Carter theorizes that the Wizards didn't want him to go into Gilbertology mode.  On the other hand, the rest of the team seems to be ignoring the 50 point angle and trying to forget about it.  Schism?  I wonder.

As for the Blazers themselves, while they're young, there's a lot that worries me about them.  Their best player is power forward Zach Randolph, who is having a really good year after struggling both on and off the court recently.  Randolph's a phenomenal post-up scorer, and if the rest of his game was as good as that, he would be an all-star starter.  As far as I know, Eddie Jordan is going to start Jarvis Hayes at power forward as usual.  So yeah, that means Hayes is going to guard Randolph in the post.  Good luck.  

On the other hand, one thing Randolph doesn't do well is pass the ball out of a double-team.  He has a reputation as being a guy who struggles to find the open man, although his numbers don't necessarily support this.  But if the Wizards are going to go small, they're going to be in better position to force turnovers off double teams.  Forcing turnovers is going to be the key - the Blazers play at the league's second slowest pace, yet have the 8th worst turnover rate.  Turnovers need to lead to fast break points for the Wizards to win.

The other thing to watch is, obviously, Arenas.  When he scored 54 against the Suns earlier, it still came within the flow of the offense.  The game was fast-paced enough for others to contribute, as Caron Butler also had 32.  However, as noted above, Portland plays at a very slow pace, meaning that for Arenas to get 50, he'll have to be a gunner.  That's probably not a good thing.  For the Wizards to win going away, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson have to be very good, particularly Butler, who has struggled of late.  They won't get theirs if Arenas is gunning away like he did against the Lakers.

Blazers blogs: Blazers Edge, Blazers Blog.  

Your lines for this afternoon:

Blazers at Wizards: Wizards by 8.
Over/Under on Big 2: 50.1 points.
SIDE WAGER (for no real prize, but still): Will Arenas get to 50?

This is an open game thread, so any pleas for the Wizards to trade for Juan Dixon (which would be a really dumb move...don't we have enough combo guards on this team?) go here.