Golden State Warriors (23-4) vs Portland Trailblazers (13-15)
How to watch?
Date: Saturday December 17, 2016
Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA
Time: 7:30pm PST
TV: CSN Bay Area, TNT Radio: 95.7 THE GAME
Blog buddy: Blazer’s Edge
Team Metrics Comparison
Remember when Monta Ellis famously said that a backcourt of him and Stephen Curry wouldn't work?
Well, we know how that turned out — Ellis’ words were prescient and he was shipped out in return for Andrew Bogut, who anchored the defense of a championship roster. It's probably safe to say that breaking up that talented backcourt duo was a good move.
The Blazers now find themselves in a similar position as they've stumbled into a dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. It works well for them offensively, but it can cause problems defensively. And for a team that entered the season with such high expectations, you have to wonder if folks inside the organization are considering breaking up that backcourt at some point if they fall short of their surprising success last season.
Thus far, things have been difficult.
The Blazers have lost six of their last seven and are currently clinging to the 8th seed in the West. Not time to panic yet, by any stretch, but certainly not where this team hoped to be at any point in the season. The offense is there. This team has the #4 ranked offense in the NBA behind Damian Lillard’s 27.7 points and six assists per game.
It’s no secret to anyone who follows the team, but just to be clear, the Blazers have the third worst defense in the league right now. Against the league’s best, it will take every bit of offense they can produce if they want to escape this game with a win.
In spite of their best efforts to shore this issue up in the offseason, the Blazers are facing some injuries to key defensive players and it has allowed them to recently get destroyed by dribble penetration. Al-Farouq Aminu is currently listed as questionable (likely out), and the Blazers could desperately use his help defensively if they hope to have any chance of containing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Likewise, our old friend Festus Ezeli has yet to play for the Blazers due to his ongoing struggle with knee issues.
Golden State has won 19 of its last 21 games, which is a drop off from the start of last season, but hardly something to get upset about. I guess we can settle for something around the mere 70 wins that this team is on pace to get this season. It’s still fun for me to write about this team though, so let’s look at some of the key elements for this game:
The Warriors are starting to maybe see a bit of an injury issue
Zaza Pachulia (right wrist contusion) is questionable & David West (right hip contusion) is doubtful for tomorrow night's game vs. Portland— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 16, 2016
So, looks like David West will be joining Zaza Pachulia in a suit on the far end of the Dubs bench for a while. This has given us the chance to let JaVale McGee soar, but his ability to stay out of foul trouble is suddenly one of the most important factors in the game. No word yet on if Damian Jones will be making the trip up north, but regardless, that’s 28.5 minutes to cover somehow.
McGee is good for around half of those minutes and as unpalatable as it may be, we may be forced to throw Anderson Varejao out there. And that, my dear reader, is what desperation looks like. James Michael MacAdoo and Kevon Looney have been a little underwhelming so far, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw 10 or 15 minutes out of some combination of the two.
Keys to the Game
Hold on to your hats folks, because I’m about to break this game down for you:
This is going to be a fast-paced game with lots of scoring.
Ok, not surprised? Fine. Look, I started writing up the keys to the game, but it’s all laughably simple. The Blazers need to shoot extremely well, something that they’ve struggled with against the Warriors.
Looking down their roster, it’s hard to see anyone to be scared of, outside of McCollum and Lillard taking over, but much like the Warriors, they tend to pass a lot and get a lot of assists. It’s going to take a team effort for them to match the output of this finely tuned Warriors machine.
The Warriors? Well, their number one need is to not throw the game away by playing lazy, uninspired ball. We’ve gone through enough bad nights to weather some poor shooting, but if we have a bunch of careless turnovers and play lackadaisical defense, the Blazers are absolutely the type of team that could make us pay for that. Along that vein, Steph Curry is seemingly overdue for a breakout performance; could this be the one?
It also wouldn’t hurt if this guy had another good game:
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Prediction: Warriors win 140-128