The glitz and glamour of the newly opened Chase Center in San Francisco haven’t correlated with wins, but that isn’t going to stop what’s left of the Golden State Warriors from trying their luck again tonight as they host the always challenging Portland Trail Blazers.
Both teams have had to contend with injuries and a disappointing start to the season, but the Blazers are hoping to avoid the precipitous drop into lowered expectations that the Warriors dipped into as soon as Stephen Curry had surgery, Draymond Green tore a finger tendon, and Kevon Looney was benched for nerve issues.
Will tonight be the Warriors’ first home win at their new arena in San Francisco, or will Oakland native Damion Lillard roll through and serve up an all-too familiar serving of humble pie, courtesy of Golden State’s moribund defense?
WHO: Golden State Warriors (1-5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3-3)
WHEN: Monday, November 4, 2019; 7:30 pm PDT
Blog Buddy: Blazer’s Edge
Dawn of a new Golden Age
The timing of the opening of the new arena coincided perfectly with the Warriors roster falling apart like that time the Mythbusters tried to make a huge Indiana Jones boulder out of legos. We may get updates today on Kevon Looney (out) and D’Angelo Russell (questionable), but neither one would appear to be enough to move the needle to save the hometown Warriors, who just lost 93-87 to the Charlotte Hornets. Golden State played without seven of their best players in that game.
Currently, Golden State has an entire team’s worth of salary sitting on the sidelines. I wrote it all up for an article yesterday, but just want to reiterate how crazy this injury list is right now:
Off the court, the Warriors coffers are deep - they had $126,086,364 worth of talent sitting out of the action last night - which leaves the team a bit bare when it comes to available players. For perspective, that $126 million or so worth of salary that isn’t suiting up right now would rank 15th in the league. The Charlotte Hornets entire roster this season is salaried at around $124 million.
So, who do the Warriors have?
Eric Paschal is now the team’s third-leading scorer — after pouring in a career-high 25 points against Charlotte on Saturday. He could continue to feast against a Blazers team that continues their defensive struggles as a perennial tradition. With Zach Collins out (shoulder), the Blazers will likely start ex-Warrior Anthony Tolliver, a wily vet that probably lacks the foot speed to keep up with Paschall.
Just as an aside, let’s consider the beauty of Paschall and how integral his success is to how we measure this season. Without Draymond Green, and no dominant scorers, it has cleared the race track for our young players to carve out their place in the league. The Warriors are not playing for playoff seeding any more. Wins and losses only matter within the context of always striving to be better, and in a way, a painful but busy first year is exactly the sort of forge that can be used to hammer out some hunger for what will become our important role players next season.
“I mean 25 (points) is good but I’d rather have 14 and win.”— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) November 3, 2019
- Eric Paschall pic.twitter.com/vAaksnZ7wK
Behind Paschall, the Warriors are hoping to see young guards Jordan Poole and Damion Lee continue to improve. Flipping the scripts on the historical inertia of this matchup, it is now the Portland team with the superior backcourt and the Warriors who hope to have a big enough game from their scorers to at least stay close to the better team.
Willie Cauley-Stein could be an X-factor tonight. Though he is still incorporating himself with the team, there really isn’t anyone on Portland’s side that can guard him in the post (other than perhaps Skal Labissière). Assuming Kerr and the Warriors recognize this, rim runs from Paschall and Cauley-Stein may be a recurring problem for the Blazers all night.
Is this finally the year for Lillard and the Blazers?
With the fall of the Warriors dynasty (hopefully just a single year regrouping/stumble, more than a fall per se), the path to an NBA championship for the Blazers has one less obstacle. But much like the Warriors of old, the Blazers find themselves trapped in a treadmill of mediocrity. Too good to get any nice draft picks, yet not quite good enough to seriously contend for a title. Portland does make the playoffs every year, and led by Lillard — who is essentially tied for second in scoring in the NBA at around 30 points per game — they are talented and well-coached.
But the target for a team like the Blazers isn’t “just make the playoffs.”
Portland sits at 3-3, with serious questions lingering around their roster construction. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum helm the ship, with support from Rodney Hood, but the team is still struggling to reliably dominate teams — especially given the absence of their centers in Collins and Jusuf Nurkic.
Against the Warriors’ league worst defense though, I expect the Blazers scorers to go absolutely bananas. Yes, Lillard, McCullom, and even Hood may get theirs, but watch for the wily scoring of Tolliver, as well as the sneaky good slashing play of young gun Anfernee Simons. Again, the Warriors defense is bad. All caps: BAD. And the the Blazers are exactly the sort of team that will take advantage of this weakness by beating the first defender off the dribble, then eviscerating the slow rotations.
Let’s be real here. The Warriors are probably going to start something close to Glenn Robinson III, Eric Paschall, Willie Cauley-Stein, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Poole. It’s going to be a bloodbath, with Portland cruising to a fairly easy victory.