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
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
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.
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
- 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.