The Brooklyn Nets are coming off a solid victory over the Indiana Pacers without James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Kevin Durant, arguably the best scorer in the league, put up 42 points in the Nets' 130-113 win.
Harden has missed the last 11 games with a hamstring injury, while Irving sat out the game against the Indiana Pacers with right groin soreness. Brooklyn Nets' coach Steve Nash has said he hopes Irving will be ready for the game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the second of back-to-back matches for the team.
In their only previous meeting this season, the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 116-112 at Portland's Moda Center.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Brooklyn Nets Prediction
The top seed in the East, the Brooklyn Nets, have a 43-20 record on the season. They are currently on a three-game winning streak, with solid victories against the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors.
The Brooklyn Nets' offense continues to sizzle, averaging 118.4 points scored per 100 possessions, which is the best in the league this season. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers have the poorest defence (29th-best) in the league. So the Trail Blazers could have their task cut out against the Brooklyn Nets attack, even with James Harden out and Durant probably sitting out this game.
Terry Stotts' Portland Trail Blazers (34-28, seventh in the West) will be desperate to grab a big result, as the team has been struggling in the last few weeks, going 5-10 in their last 15 matches. The Portland Trail Blazers have taken consecutive wins against the Pacers, so a much-needed result against the Memphis Grizzlies would do well for their confidence.
On that note, let's have a look at a hypothetical combined starting five of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Brooklyn Nets.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Brooklyn Nets combined starting 5
Point Guard - Damian Lillard | Shooting Guard - Kyrie Irving | Small Forward - Norman Powell | Power Forward - Joe Harris | Center - Enes Kanter.
Damian Lillard has had a tremendous campaign, keeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the top six in the West through the first half of the season. However, Lillard has been struggling lately, averaging 21 points per game in his last 11 appearances and has tallied 36/33/87 shooting splits.
Overall, Lillard has put up 28.2 points and 7.4 assists per game with 43/37/92 shooting splits this season. Lillard will need to guide the Portland Trail Blazers in the final stretch of the season, starting against the Brooklyn Nets.
Kyrie Irving has been extraordinary this season for the mighty Brooklyn Nets, even though he gas missed 17 games due to various reasons. Irving did not play in the Brooklyn Nets' previous match against the Indiana Pacers, but coach Steve Nash hopes to have him back against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Irving is averaging 26.9 points, 6.4 assists and five rebounds per game this season and has made 50.3% of his field goals while shooting at 38.7% from the three and 92.3% from the free-throw mark.
Meanwhile, on the Portland Trail Blazers' side, the arrival of Norman Powell has coincided with a tough stretch for the team, who have gone 8-10 since his arrival.
Of course, Powell is not solely culpable for that, as the former Toronto Raptors player is averaging 16.7 points with 44/33/86 shooting splits. He has not been shooting from the three as well for the Portland Trail Blazers (43.9%) as he did with the Toronto Raptors, though.
However, a player who has not had any difficulty shooting three-pointers this season is the Brooklyn Nets' forward Joe Harris.
Harris has taken full advantage of the attention given by opposing defenders on the talent surrounding him. He is averaging 14.5 points per game with 51/48/78 shooting splits. He has made 48.1% of his three-point field goals this season, which is the best in the league this season. Harris has also attempted 6.5 threes per game so far.
Jusuf Nurkic is the most talented big man in the Portland Trail Blazers' roster. But he has played only 27 games this season, with Enes Kanter playing as the starting center for most of the campaign.
Kanter is averaging 11.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game this season and has appeared in each of his team's 62 games this campaign. He has started only 35 games this season but already has 31 double-doubles to his name.