Game 82 Preview: Warriors vs. Blazers

The 82nd game of the season.  It's hard to believe it's here.  The great news is that the season isn't over after the final horn sounds tonight.  Stop for a second and consider how easily it could have been.  This topsy-turvy, injury-ridden, angst-filled season could have been the team's downfall and nobody would have blinked.  They had 100 ready-made excuses to drop into the lottery.  And yet here we are, with Game 82 deciding between the 6th and 7th seed in the West, between 50 and 51 victories, and everything important still remains in the Blazers' hands.  That is amazing.

The cherry on the sundae would be the victory against the Warriors tonight.  Obviously Portland has to guard against a letdown after the emotional wins Sunday and Monday.  The Warriors are 25-56 overall but they've gone 4-3 in their last 7 games.  They're also one heck of a wildcard with the pace of their offense.   You may be an excellent sharpshooter with the best of training but you still get a little nervous standing across from a guy with a machine gun, even if he is a little bit nearsighted.  He doesn't necessarily have to aim to win.

In case you've missed out on them, the W's (OK, it's an ironic nickname at this point) score 108.8 points per game on 47% shooting, 37.6% from the arc as part of the fastest offense in the West...or, well, anywhere.  They feature Monta Ellis, rookie of the year candidate Stephen Curry, and LaMarcus Aldridge's own personal kryptonite...Corey Maggette.  Anthony Tolliver is now starting at power foward and has played well for them lately.  Ronny Turiaf is a solid soul and they have more quick scorers off the bench.  Their offense is no joke or fluke.  These guys are built to score.

"But Dave," you say, "what about their defense?"  Ha!  Have I mentioned that Ellis averages 25.5 per game?  Or that Curry is pushing 44% from the three-point arc?

"But Dave," you say, "what about their defense?"  Did I tell you that LaMarcus Aldridge has a tough time against this team?  You know the 14 and 8 he tallied in his last game between the two seemed like a complete breakthrough.

"But Dave," you say, "what...about...their...defense?"  Does anybody remember the Ringworld series?  Because that was some fine science fiction...

DAVE!  DEFENSE!!!! 

(sigh)  Fine.  They allow 112.5 points per game.  Stop laughing!  It's true.  48.4% shooting from the field, the same 37.6% they shoot from the arc, plus they allow an average of 4 more free throws to their opponents than they take.  And don't even ask about their rebounding.  They get spanked by almost 10 per game.  They allow 13.5 offensive rebounds per outing.  As I think I said once before this season, they might as well be playing "make it, take it" rules like on the playground.

So here's what it boils down to.  If Portland plays a Portland-type game they'll win.  If Portland fools around with the Warriors and gets caught up in the frantic pace they're in danger.  The Warriors will create too many turnovers and take too many shots for Portland to beat them that way.

Here are the remaining seeding ramifications:

If the Blazers win they take 6th.

If the Blazers lose they take 6th if the Spurs also lose to Dallas, 7th if the Spurs win.  San Antonio is on the road for that game.

As the 6th or 7th seed the Blazers could still play either Dallas, Utah, or Phoenix.  The games involving those teams are San Antonio vs Dallas and Phoenix vs Utah. 

If Portland Wins...

They will play Utah if DAL beats SA and Utah beats PHO.  (POR 6th, Utah 3rd seed outright.)

They will play Phoenix if DAL beats SA and PHO beats Utah. (POR 6th, PHO 3rd seed outright.)

They will play Dallas if SA beats DAL and Utah beats PHO. (POR 6th, Utah and DAL tied, both Div. winners, Utah owns head to head, Dallas 3rd seed.)

They will play Phoenix if SA beats DAL and PHO beats Utah.  (POR 6th, PHO and DAL tied but DAL is Div. winner, PHO not, PHO 3rd seed.)

If Portland Loses...

They will play Utah if DAL beats SA and Utah beats PHO.  (POR 6th, Utah 3rd seed outright.)

They will play Phoenix if DAL beats SA and PHO beats Utah. (POR 6th, PHO 3rd seed outright)

They will play Utah if SA beats DAL and Utah beats PHO (POR 7th, Utah and DAL tied, both Div. winners, Utah owns head to head, Utah 2nd seed.)

They will play Dallas if SA beats DAL and PHO beats Utah.  (POR 7th, PHO and DAL tied but DAL is Div. winner, PHO not, DAL 2nd seed.)


Just thank your lucky stars that Denver didn't win one more game this season or that would have been a LOT more complicated.

Check out the goings on at the always-lively GoldenStateofMind.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com

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