Trail Blazers Vs. Warriors Preview
April 13, 2014
By JORDAN GARRETSON
The Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers haven't been fixtures in the playoffs in recent years, but they have their sights on accomplishing more than simply reaching the postseason in 2014.
Both will look to improve their positioning in the Western Conference when they meet in Portland on Sunday night.
The Trail Blazers (52-28) have won seven of eight, a stretch that coincides with LaMarcus Aldridge's return from a seven-game absence due to a back injury. They've limited their last eight opponents to 96.3 points and 42.8 percent shooting per game after allowing 103.3 and 45.4 prior to this span.
Portland is 27-4 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points after a 111-99 win at Utah on Friday.
"We're coming together at the right time," coach Terry Stotts said. "Defensively we've been locked in and our offense is starting to come around again. We're looking forward to the playoffs."
The Trail Blazers can clinch at least a fifth-place finish with a win Sunday - preventing Golden State from surpassing them - and they're also trying to chase down Houston for fourth. They have missed out on the playoffs in seven of the last 10 seasons and haven't held home court in the first round since 2009.
Portland is 29-10 at home for its second-best winning percentage there since 1998-99.
"You always want home court," Aldridge said. "If we can get it, we definitely want it."
Golden State (49-30) clinched a second straight postseason berth for the first time since 1992 with a 112-95 road victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The Warriors, eliminated by San Antonio in the conference semifinals last year, had missed the playoffs in 17 of 18 seasons prior to 2013.
They would clinch at least the sixth spot with a win Sunday, which would also keep them alive for fifth.
"We know we're a good basketball team now," coach Mark Jackson said. "That's why you don't see shouting and screaming and soaking-wet guys. We expected to be here. We celebrated the moment, and now we're on to bigger things."
Damian Lillard had been 0 for 4 from the field with two points before scoring 14 in the fourth quarter of Portland's win Friday. Lillard, among the league leaders with 6.2 points per game in the final quarter, hit four straight 3-pointers during a 3:25 span and the team was 7 of 8 from beyond the arc in the fourth.
The Warriors have won three of four after Stephen Curry finished with 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds against the Lakers. His four triple-doubles are tied with Joakim Noah and Lance Stephenson for the league lead and he's the first Warrior with four in a season since Wilt Chamberlain had five in 1962-63.
Golden State has won five of six against Portland, with Curry totaling 75 points and going 11 of 20 on 3-pointers to help the Warriors take the last two matchups.
Lillard shot just 32.8 percent over the first three meetings of the season and Aldridge made 25.7 percent (9 of 35) while playing twice, though he was 22 of 25 from the free-throw line.
Nicolas Batum missed a potential tying free throw with six seconds left as well as a 3-pointer at the buzzer in Golden State's 113-112 win in Portland on March 16.
The Warriors can tie the single-season franchise record for road wins from 1991-92 with their 24th on Sunday. They host Minnesota on Monday before closing the season Wednesday in Denver.