Seeking first home win, Blazers welcome rested Nets
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Two teams operating at less than full strength and now dealing with schedule adversity meet Friday night when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Portland Trail Blazers.
The matchup of a winless road team against a winless home team features a lot of missing pieces, including Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Pau Gasol.
Nets center DeAndre Jordan likely will join that list after spraining his right ankle Monday against New Orleans. He's being listed as questionable, although Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has since said the club will "err on the side of caution" in determining when to return him to the lineup.
The Nets haven't played since Monday's home win over the Pelicans, plenty of time to pack for a nine-day, five-game Western swing. They've made just a pair of one-day trips so far, losing by one in overtime at Memphis and by four at Detroit.
Atkinson noted after the New Orleans win that his team would be in a "training-camp mode" with a three-day break between games.
"We definitely have some work to do," he assured reporters. "We have a long way to go."
Win or lose, Kyrie Irving has been pouring in points on a record-setting pace. He's totaled 222 points in seven games -- the most in franchise history for a player in his first seven games with the team.
If that distinction is to be extended to an eighth game, it'll have to come in a bit of a House of Horrors for Irving.
He's made six previous visits to Portland in his career (one with Boston, five with Cleveland) and won just once, averaging 19.0 points on just 38-percent shooting. Matched up most of the time with Portland star Damian Lillard, Irving has managed just 7-for-31 shooting (23 percent) on 3-pointers.
Lillard, meanwhile, has a pair of 5-for-10 efforts on 3-pointers among his last four head-to-heads with Irving in Portland. He's averaged 22.0 points over that stretch, which includes a 19-point, 12-assist double-double in their most recent duel out West last November.
Lillard rates among the NBA leaders in minutes, and that could be an issue in Friday's meeting, with the Trail Blazers having gone the distance in a 107-101 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
Lillard played 38 minutes on the front end of the back-to-back and had 22 points.
Returning to Portland means getting a third opportunity at a first home win this season. The Trail Blazers have failed in their first two opportunities, losing to Denver and Philadelphia.
After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, the Trail Blazers underwent an inordinate number of changes in the offseason, especially in their front line, where Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless were the primary starters a year ago. Nurkic is still recovering from a gruesome leg injury suffered last season while Aminu went to Orlando in free agency and the Blazers traded Harkless to the Clippers.
The transition to Rodney Hood, Anthony Tolliver and Hassan Whiteside -- the latter two because of injuries to Zach Collins and Nurkic -- has not gone smoothly in the team's 3-5 start.
"It just takes a while," Portland coach Terry Stotts noted this week, echoing Atkinson's feelings. "I don't want to make an excuse, but it's just going to take a while for us to evolve and get better."