The Portland Trail Blazers (33-11) visit the Golden State Warriors (26-18) at 6:00 p.m. PST tonight for their second of four meetings this season. Last time they squared off the Trail Blazers defeated the Warriors 113-101 after the biggest brawl of this NBA season left both sides with ejected players for the entire fourth quarter. This game will likely be more controlled, but there’s bad blood in the air already.
On top of that, the Warriors are growing frustrated. Having nearly matched the Trail Blazers’ early-season 11 win streak, the Warriors have now dropped five of their last seven games; most recently to the Timberwolves, who the Trail Blazers dispatched last night. They’re mad, they’re rested, and they’re at home. It will be especially difficult for the Trail Blazers to march into Oakland and declare victory on this second half of a back-to-back.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all…
Golden State Warriors:
- Nemanja Nedovic is close to returning from a hamstring injury, but it won’t be tonight, and it wouldn’t matter if it was. He is the Warriors’ fourth option at shooting guard.
- Festus Ezeli could miss the entire season after spraining his knee last June. It must have been nasty, becaue it required surgical reinforcement.
- Former Trail Blazer Jermaine O’Neal is ahead of schedule to return from a wrist injury, but we won’t see his face for a while yet. He has begun light shooting.
Keys to the Game
Abusing David Lee. While Lee is a polished scorer, he’s one of the worst defensive big men among NBA starters. He’ll have Andrew Bogut to back him up in the paint, but it would be really unfortunate if Lee had to defend a mid-range scorer. LaMarcus Aldridge is only the best power forward in the league, so David Lee should be okay. One time I saw Aldridge miss an elbow jumper, so he’s probably really bad at them.
Containing Stephen Curry. The Warriors may have lost five of their last seven, but during that stretch Stephen Curry has averaged 28.4 points and 8.7 assists. There is a reason he was voted in as a starter for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. Nearly half of his attempted field goals are three-pointers and he’s made more of them this season than resident hot-shots Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. The Trail Blazers must lock him down.
Winning the three-point battle. Portland and Golden State boast all four players atop the three-point leader board between them. In order: Klay Thompson (134), Stephen Curry (134), Damian Lillard (132), and Wesley Matthews (116). The easiest way to lose against a three-point shooting team is not answering. Though the Trail Blazers have shifted their focus away from the perimeter of late, they possess the weapons to meet the challenge.