While the Utah Jazz put up a valiant effort, it wasn’t enough to slow the Golden State Warriors’ march towards their title defense. In spite of all the extracurricular noise, this team has done everything they needed to in order to set themselves up for a strong finish to the season.
Just one game left before the All Star break, so strap in for a battle as the Dubs face yet another potential playoff opponent in Portland. On the back end of a back-to-back, the Warriors aren’t even flying DeMarcus Cousins and Shaun Livingston up to Portland, making a challenging opponent even tougher.
WHERE: Moda Center, Portland, OR
WHEN: Wednesday February 13, 2019; 7:30pm
WATCH: ESPN; CSNBA (?)
Portland coming off back-to-back losses featuring a blown 19-point lead in Dallas and a bad game at Oklahoma City
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a weird place. They are a perennial playoff team, but just haven’t been anywhere near getting over the hump separating the “good” from “elite” in the NBA. This season has been no different. After getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs last year, Portland stood pat - and though they’ve made some minor changes around the edges, the team didn’t add any significant pieces ahead of the trade deadline last week.
So, we’ll be looking at more of the same familiar team tonight. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum still lead the team in scoring (26 and 21 points per game, respectively), and Jusuf Nurkic is a solid - if not dominant big - who can be counted on to chip in his usual 15 points and 10 rebounds or so per night.
Beyond that, the Blazers have a number of useful players that are just on the wrong side of dominance - players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, and Rodney Hood are all nice enough, but don’t really move the needle for a team languishing just below the NBA elite.
The Blazers’ approach to the trade deadline was very much on brand here too; Portland made two trades this season:
- Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and two 2nds to Cleveland for Rodney Hood
- Caleb Swanigan to Sacramento for Skal Labissiere
I know they weren’t losing any critical players, but neither do these moves look especially helpful in advancing the Blazers beyond the team that got swept out of the playoffs last season. The fourth-seeded team from Portland is currently sitting a full four games back from the third seed (OKC Thunder), essentially tied with the Houston Rockets with just one and two games separating them from the 5th and 6th seeds.
No game is “must-win” at this point in the season, but rest assured that the Blazers are going to want this win in order to prove that they belong with the playoff elites of the league.
Klay’s finger, Boogie’s numbers, and the Curry/Durant pick-and-roll
Klay Thompson gave us all a scare last night after a gross-looking finger injury. Sure, it’s his non-shooting hand, and he re-entered the game, but the one thing that seems like it could truly derail the Warriors’ title defense is injuries.
Dislocated on his push off of Mitchell pic.twitter.com/0tNkW2KfvY— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 13, 2019
No word yet if Thompson will be held out tonight, or even play limited minutes. The team referred to the injury as a “sprain” in spite of the video evidence suggesting a dislocation. I’m no doctor, but I’ve seen enough Die Hard to know that you can just pop that sucker right back in and keep fighting.
DeMarcus Cousins is on a tear. Over the last five games, he’s scored: 18, 15, 18, 7, and 12 points; and pulled down 10 rebounds twice. Along with his five assists last night, it looks like Cousins is going to be exactly the problem that other teams and fans bemoaned when he signed here. After some early foul troubles, Cousins is now the one putting pressure on the other team not to foul him. For an already deadly roster, Cousins is exactly the sort of added threat that is the force multiplier that could push the team back to another Championship. It’s also worth noting that Kerr played him 28 minutes last night, the highest such total of the season - but likely did so expecting the night off tonight.
One of the fans’ favorite past times seems to be micromanaging the Curry and Durant pick-and-roll, so I present the following for your consideration:
I do think there's an issue with the Curry/KD PNR they need to work out. Curry has a hard time making a clean pass. He needs a clear angle and, vs. a trap, that's tough for him to get. We've all seen how the hook over the top can work against him. They need reps to master that— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) February 13, 2019
We know this is still a work in progress, but for such a basic (and effective) play, the Warriors’ best players continue to look a little awkward running it. Complicating this is the fact that we’ve added a significant new wrinkle.
KD, Steph, DMC run the double punch play twice down the stretch. DMC short circuits it twice to drive to the rim instead of feeding KD in the post. It’s either a DMC custom version or he’s freelancing...— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) February 13, 2019
Thankfully, there’s still plenty of time left in the season to iron out these kinks. Kerr generally eschews this play style, but it is undeniably effective - especially given the caliber of players involved here. Don’t be shocked if you see Kerr slacken the restraints a bit. We don’t want to still be figuring this stuff out in June.