The 33-39 Portland Trail Blazers face off against the 41-32 Golden State Warriors tonight in a 7:30 p.m. Pacific game televised locally on CSNNW.
The Blazers will play without forward LaMarcus Aldridge for the second night in a row. He did not make the trip to Oakland, suffering from an ankle injury sustained in Portland's recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Blazer fans got a sneak peek at life without Aldridge in a 10-point home loss to the Utah Jazz last night. The game featured plenty of enthusiasm, ball movement, and extra opportunities for Damian Lillard to operate on offense. It also featured plenty of confusion, opposing bigs scoring in the paint at will, and Portland's wings not being able to make up the scoring gap when the opponent shut down Lillard. Final impression: "We tried, but oh well."
Unfortunately for the Blazers, this isn't the December version of the Warriors. Center Andrew Bogut has returned. He's struggling at 6 points and 8 rebounds per game in modest minutes, but he's 7-feet tall and not incompetent, which is qualification enough to score 20 against Portland's front line at this point. Worse, Bogut is flanked by David Lee. Lee's All-Star season continues: 19 points, 11 rebounds, 52% shooting. Point guard Stephen Curry has a wobbly ankle of his own but he's scored 20+ in 4 of his last 5 games, topping 30 twice. Center, power forward, and point guard are serious defensive weaknesses for the Blazers and the Warriors are stocked at all three positions.
I'm not sure we even need to mention Jarrett Jack's career year, rookie lottery pick Harrison Barnes, or what a nice player shooting guard Klay Thompson is. (Dave's coveted player of the night.) Oh, and they bring tough power forward Carl Landry off the bench too.
Golden State owns the best three-point shooting percentage in the league. As always, they like to fast break. They haven't scored much in the paint this year but then again they haven't had the kind of opportunity they're going to get tonight. They're not good on the offensive glass...a small blessing for Portland. They avoid gambling on the defensive end. They don't block shots or force turnovers. All they care about is utilizing their mobility, staying in front of you and getting you to take a low percentage shot. They're one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league. They're effective enough on defense to get the job done, letting their offense shine.
Obviously this will be a tough game for Portland to win. They seldom do well in the Oracle anyway. No Aldridge probably equals no love tonight. The back-to-back is just putting mustard on the gravy. Blazers fans can hope that the game will be entertaining at least, wide-open enough to allow less-heralded guys to show some offensive chops. Plus you never know how many Damian Lillard will drop in his hometown. 50? 60? If Portland can stay close or catch the Warriors unaware and actually challenge for the win, so much the better.
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