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Warriors vs. Blazers Preview: Suddenly every game feels big

The All-Star break is nearing, and the Warriors could use some wins.

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Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/undefined

The Golden State Warriors just had a rarity: two straight off days, which allowed the team a chance to practice.

Now they’re back in action for the front half of a back-to-back before waltzing into the All-Star break.

The deets

Who: Golden State Warriors (19-16) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (19-14)

When: 7:00 p.m. PT

Where: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon

TV: ESPN (available on fuboTV)

Projected starting lineups:

Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Blazers: Damian Lillard, Gary Trent Jr., Derrick Jones Jr., Robert Covington, Enes Kanter

Last results:

Warriors: Lost to the Lakers 117-91 — 3-2 in their last 5 games
Blazers: Beat the Hornets 123-111 — 1-4 in their last 5 games

Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass)

Warriors: 110.0 offense (22nd), 110.5 defense (7th), -0.4 net (17th)
Blazers: 117.1 offense (6th), 117.0 defense (28th), 0.0 net (13th)

The story

The Warriors have two games left before the All-Star break. They won’t be easy. They’re back-to-backs, on the road, against two teams ahead of them in the standings.

Golden State will enter the break at 21-16, 20-17, or 19-18. Somehow, those three records look dramatically different. And with an utterly brutal start to the second half of the season — a trip to the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by a home stand against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers — the record after Thursday matters double.

Portland has been an up-and-down team ever since CJ McCollum went down with an injury. Their win on Monday broke a four-game losing streak, but that streak immediately followed a six-game winning streak. For all of Portland’s wonders, they boast one of the league’s worst defenses, and it’s a prime opportunity for Golden State’s tepid offense to break out a bit.

Players to watch

Warrior to watch: Kelly Oubre Jr.

After a disastrous start to his Dubs tenure, Oubre broke out in February. The shooting guard averaged 20.1 points per game for the month, shot 43.0% from the field, and had a 60.4% true-shooting percentage, all while playing tenacious defense.

Against Portland’s poor defensive backcourt, he has a chance to feast. But he’ll have to work on the defensive end, as he’ll likely be tasked with defending Damian Lillard.

Blazer to watch: Enes Kanter.

Kanter has had to take on a bigger role with Jusuf Nurkić’s injury, and he’s shined, averaging 11.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He’s an offensive player capable of scoring on anyone, at any time, and a defensive player capable of being scored on by anyone, at any time.

The Warriors need to make sure that equation is tilted in their favor.

Matchup to watch: Steph Curry vs. Damian Lillard.

Even though Curry and Lillard won’t spend too much time defending each other, it’s always a joy when these two players — the two best point guards in the NBA right now — get to square off.

Keep your eye on these two the moment the ball crosses half court.

Keys to victory

  • Find early offensive rhythm against a poor defensive team
  • Don’t let Enes Kanter feast at the rim or on the boards
  • Keep Carmelo Anthony from having a strong game off the bench
  • Get solid contributions from the wings

Back in the win column, Dubs.

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