The Portland Trail Blazers (43-23) finally return home tonight as they host the Golden State Warriors (41-26). With the previous two games in this series played away from the Moda Center, the Trail Blazes will try to take the season series lead at home. For Portland, a win tonight also increases their lead over the Warriors for the fifth place spot in the West.
Snapping a four game losing streak, the Trail Blazers secured a win in New Orleans on Friday (111-103). The Trail Blazers needed Damian Lillard to step up in the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard came up big in the fourth quarter. Of his 27 total points, Lillard scored 16 in the fourth. You could tell that he didn’t want to lose that one. His presence will need to be felt again tonight as Aldridge sits for one more game.
The Golden State Warriors haven’t been able to apply pressure on Portland for the fifth spot in the West. The Warriors seemed to be in prime attacking position with the Trail Blazers recent skid on the road. Instead, they have lost two in a row for the first time since January. The Warriors blew a 16-point lead against Cleveland on Friday and held a team meeting following the game. Sounds like the Warriors and the Trail Blazers have a lot in common.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- LaMarcus Aldridge will be out for tonight’s game against the Warriors. Aldridge is sidelined with a low back contusion and will be evaluated tomorrow. As of yesterday, he was still using crutches to get around.
- Mo Williams is out with a strained hip.
- Joel Freeland is out with an MCL sprain. Chris Haynes reported on Thursday that Freeland doesn’t expect to return during the regular season.
Golden State Warriors:
- Klay Thompson’s status for Sunday’s game is unknown. He missed Friday’s game after his grandfather passed away.
- Festus Ezeli has been sidelined the entire season after undergoing knee surgery in June.
Keys To The Game
Damian Lillard vs. Stephen Curry. Lillard knows he is the go-to guy when Aldridge is out. Without Aldridge in the lineup this season, Lillard is averaging 27.2 points. In comparison, he is averaging 21.1 points on the season. He has struggled against Golden State this season, a team he normally excels against. Lillard is averaging 18.0 points over the two previous meetings. He likes to play in front of his home town of Oakland but will need to have the same fire tonight. Stephen Curry has been in a little slump. He has been fantastic this season leading the Warriors in scoring with 23.2 points per game. Over the last five games, Curry has only eclipsed 20 points once. Lillard and Curry will have the spotlight tonight and we’ll see who takes advantage.
Klay Thompson. Thompson missed Friday’s game due to the death of his grandfather. Barring any travel problems, the Warriors expect to have Thompson back in the lineup tonight. Missing Friday’s game caused Thompson’s streak of 214 consecutive games played to end. Thompson will have a lot on his mind but it may allow him to play great. These stories happen all the time, a player misses a game for a funeral then comes back and has a fantastic game playing for their lost family member. Wesley Matthews will draw the assignment on Thompson and he will have to have another great defensive effort in order to slow him.
Defense. As mentioned, the Warriors have dropped two straight, which is somewhat of a rarity for them this season. They have failed to reach the century mark in the last two games. Seems like those two concepts go hand in hand. If the Trail Blazers can play the defense we know they’re capable of, it will play to their advantage. Seems logical but we know good defense isn’t the calling card of this Trail Blazers team. Without Aldridge or Freeland available, Lopez will need to stay out of foul trouble. Meyers Leonard has not proven anything to me yet and Lopez is the best option for defending the paint.