Golden State Warriors (30-5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (15-21)
How to watch
Date: Wednesday January 4, 2017
Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA
Time: 7:30pm PST
TV: ESPN; CSN Bay Area Radio: 95.7 THE GAME
Last updated 3:00pm on 1/3/17
Warriors: Patrick McCaw
Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard
After the top seven teams in the Western Conference, there is a sharp drop-off in wins. Occupying spots eight through eleven are the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans, all within one win of each other. Whichever team ends up in that eighth spot will likely face the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
The Trail Blazers and Warriors are not strange bedfellows in the playoffs, as they faced each other in last season’s second round. However, it’s undeniable that Portland has not been performing as well this season.
Make way for C.J.
With Lillard out the past four games nursing an ankle sprain, Trail Blazers’ guard, C.J. McCollum, has been the focal point of the offense. But while McCollum has shouldered the scoring load during Lillards absence, the rest of the team has done little to help.
Despite that, Portland has a 2-2 record their past four games without Lillard and McCollum is coming off a 43 point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game in which the Trail Blazers overcame a 14 point half-time deficit.
It seems as though Lillard is doubtful to play Wednesday against the Warriors so it will be up to McCollum and company to try and outscore Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. If ever there was a tall order...
But all is not lost for Portland. Even if they lose this game, they may be on their way up. After George Karl’s surprising criticism of Lillard, Trail Blazer’s head coach Terry Stotts came to Lillard’s defense. The stage is set for the team and the city to rally behind Lillard upon his return.
Furthermore, The Oregonian reports that the Trail Blazers have recently implemented some “new defensive wrinkles” that have been working out for the team.
If Portland can’t find a way to use these on Wednesday to defeat Golden State, they can still hope to improve throughout the season and stay relevant come playoffs.
Stay the course
The Warriors have as many wins at home as the Trail Blazers have in total. With a 15-2 home record, the Warriors are heavy favorites for this game.
They’re coming off an incredibly balanced offensive game against the Nuggets and should look to continue that flow. Defensively, look for them to press McCollum into difficult shots as he is by far the best offensive option available to Portland.
Also look for Thompson to feast on the Trail Blazers’ defensive rotations. Part of the new defense of the Trail Blazers is to trap on pick-and-rolls and count on their length and athleticism to recover out of the double team.
While this may have worked for them against other teams, the Warriors are an elite passing team and Thompson is a dead-eye shooter with a wicked fast release. You can bet the Warriors will easily pass their way out of double-teams to find the open man; and more often than not, the open man is the off-the-ball master marksman, Thompson.
Golden State plays under a microscope and every move by every player is scrutinized. But it is undeniable that they have continued to work and tweak the offense and defense for the better. They need to tune out the noise, stay the course and continue that development.
Score: Warriors 120 - Trail Blazers 103
High Scorer: Klay Thompson (GSW) and C.J. McCollum (POR)