Viewers' Guide: Closer look at Saturday night's Blazers-Warriors showdown on NBA TV
Kevin Cottrell Jr., Special to NBA.com
Trail Blazers vs. Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
Oracle Arena is currently the oldest venue in the NBA and home to the newest rivalry, as the Portland Trail Blazers set to face the Golden State Warriors. Oakland High School alum, Damian Lillard, is the city’s favorite son and one of the hometown teams’ worst nightmares. Lillard represents Oakland with jersey No. 0 and is eager to lead his Blazers teammates into Oracle looking to capture its first win there since his rookie season.
The Letter ‘O’
After suffering a 132-120 loss in Denver, Portland got a day to rest and regroup before facing the Warriors. The Blazers have lost seven straight games in Oracle Arena including the postseason. One would think that losing streak is tough enough to overcome, but in the previous seven matchups, the Warriors did their damage without the services of Kevin Durant. In the last four regular season meetings in Oakland, the Warriors won by an average of 16.8 points. While the pressure may rest squarely on LIllard’s shoulders, he’s showing zero effects, entering this clash scoring 30 or more points four times this month (including 40 points and 10 assists in Thursday’s defeat). If you doubt his ability to get up for the chance to defeat his hometown team, keep in mind Dame’s career-high 51 points came against the Dubs in February of last season.
Keeping it 100
Everyone loves a high-scoring game and you’ll be pressed to find a more explosive matchup. The Warriors lead the league with the most 100-point games (25), while the Blazers (24) are a close second. For the Warriors, 100 points have all but guaranteed a victory, with the Dubs boasting a 22-1 record this season when eclipsing the century mark. Portland has come on of late, having scored at least 114 points in four consecutive games from Nov. 23 to Nov. 30, marking the first time the team has done so since March 1994.
With two of the better scoring teams on display, it comes as no surprise that the two best scoring duos are in the center of it all. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Warriors MVP duo of Durant and Stephen Curry, leads all scoring duos with 50.41 combined PPG. The only other duo to average more than 50 PPG is the Portland backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum (50.14). We know what these two sets of teammates are capable of, but the Warriors also have Klay Thompson, who scored a NBA-high 60 points this season. Will a third player emerge for Portland to match Golden State’s fire power?
Leading The Way
The Warriors enter tonight’s matchup with a NBA best 23-4 record. Prior to the start of the season many considered the Warriors the favorites to win the West but the way they’ve done so has wowed onlookers. The Warriors’ 117.3 PPG is far and away the best in the league, but it’s not the only facet of the game where Golden State has excelled. Currently the Warriors lead the NBA in assists (31.4), blocks (6.63), field-goal percentage (.494), steals (9.33) and opponent three-point field-goal percentage (.324). Although many consider this team an unfinished product, their journey to completion should be fun to watch.
Gold Shares Rising
Among the many No. 1 rankings currently held by the Warriors, their unselfish play as depicted by their assists may be the most impressive. The Dubs have established a franchise record with three games handing out 40 or more assists. The Warriors are the first team since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls to record at least three 40-assists games in a single season. On Thursday vs the New York Knicks, the Warriors recorded 41 assists on 45 field goals made (assisting on its first 36 field goals made). The Blazers are all too familiar with their sharing ways, as Golden State dished out 45 assists on 50 field goals made in a 127-104 win in Portland last month.
Curry Blazing Hot
Stephen Curry may not be from Oakland or Portland, but he loves to face the Blazers as much as Lillard does the Warriors. The two-time MVP has scored 20 or more points in 12 consecutive games against the Trail Blazers. Having scored 30 or more points in eight of those 12 contests. On Thursday, Curry struggled with eight points on 3-for-14 shooting, so look for him to use this big stage to get back on track. The last time Curry was held to single digits was January 2, scoring five points versus Denver. Two nights later, Curry responded with 30 points against his hometown Charlotte Hornets.