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Point Guards Key as Portland Trailblazers Visit Golden State Warriors

Damian Lillard versus Stephen Curry is the marquee matchup tonight. David Lee against LaMarcus Aldridge is also on the bill.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors (22-12) vs Portland Trail Blazers (20-15)

Tip-Off: 7:30PM PST, 10:30 EST

TV: CSN Bay Area, League Pass | Radio: KNBR 680

Blog Buddy: Blazers Edge

Golden State Warriors tickets

After playing the Miami HEAT at home last night, the Blazers arrive in Oakland fresh off of a tough 92-90 win that required over 40 minutes of playing time from four of their starters. The Blazers are currently 2.5 games behind the Dubs, and sitting at the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Portland is a pretty good team. Their starting unit plays well and could take them into the playoffs, despite their very weak bench play. And they've been great at home, with an eight game winning streak. Their road record hasn't been as good, and this could be the difference for the Warriors tonight.

It's the first meeting between the two teams this year, and the first chance to see Damian Lillard in Oakland as a pro. Dame has been having an outstanding rookie campaign. I won't go as far as Charles Barkley and say that you might as well just declare him Rookie of the Year right now, but a strong case can be made for that position.

Keys to the Game

  • Turnovers

Like offensive rebounds, turnovers give opponents the opportunity to take additional shots. After giving up more than 15 "extra" shots to Memphis, Golden State needs to take care of the ball.

  • Matchups

Matt Steinmetz thinks that Lillard and Stephen Curry have "virtually identical" numbers. While Lillard's numbers have been very good, that's a bit of an overstatement. Steinmetz concedes the difference in the 3-point shooting, but Curry has been better across the board this year - shooting, rebounding, and defensively, including steals. Assists and turnovers are at nearly-identical rates, and there is no category where Lillard has a clear advantage on Curry

However, if we go by NetRtg (ORtg-DRtg) it's not close - Steph is net positive (+6) and Lillard is net negative (-3). Win Share per 48 (.154 - .091), Wins Produced per 48 (.151 - .072), and PER (18.8 - 16.4) all give the advantage to Curry as well, so it doesn't matter which summary stat you pick. (RAPM shows a huge advantage to Curry as well, but doesn't measure rookies as accurately as it does players with more years in the league.) The Warriors have a slight advantage here.

During the game last night, Steve Kerr said that LaMarcus Aldridge is the best power forward in the league. The studio guys argued the point - but came to an agreement that LMA, ZBo, and DLee are in the discussion with Blake Griffin. Aldridge and David Lee are having similar years, statistically, with the advantage to Lee on rebounding, and a slight advantage to LaMarcus on scoring. Lee has had some trouble with him in past meetings, so Portland might have a slight advantage here.

A real issue for the Dubs could be at small forward. Nicolas Batum is showing that he might be worth his contract, and on any given night can be the best player on the Blazer squad. Harrison Barnes will have his hands full, and if he can control Batum it will go a long way towards winning this game.

  • Bench Play

This could be the single key to the game. If Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack are productive, the Portland bench doesn't come anywhere near matching the Warriors. Jack hasn't played well in the last two games, and has seemed hampered from his weight room accident. Hopefully, the days off have resolved that issue for him. Landry is due for a solid game, and could well have it tonight against an average-sized Blazer front line.

It should be exciting, and if the Warriors want to maintain their position in the conference, it should be a win. Nothing is certain in the NBA (except Stern and luxury taxes) so don't count it until after the final buzzer.

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