Golden State Warriors (2-1) at Portland Trail Blazers (2-1)
Nov. 1, 2016 | 7:00 PDT
Watch: CSN NW/NBA TV | NBA League Pass
Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Warriors injuries: Kevin Durant (probable), Patrick McCaw (out), Damian Jones (out)
SBN Affiliate: Golden State of Mind
After a week that saw a loss to a tough Clippers team and a contest against the Nuggets that required late-game heroics, the road doesn’t get any easier for the Trail Blazers, who go up against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.
Golden State, fresh off of a record-setting, 73-win season and a notable loss in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers after being up 3-1 in the series, orchestrated one of the most notable roster moves in league history this summer by adding superstar Kevin Durant to a lineup that already featured two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, sharpshooter Klay Thompson, and versatile big man Draymond Green.
The Warriors, after a surprising 129-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on opening night, have won their last two games behind the scoring brilliance of, you guessed it, Durant and Curry. Durant is putting up 31 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly five assists per game on 56 percent shooting, and Curry is averaging nearly 26 points per game while shooting 43 percent from beyond (often way beyond) the 3-point line.
Naturally, with the addition of Durant, scoring levels for the other two of Golden State’s four stars has leveled off, with Thompson pouring in nearly 18 points per game and Green chipping in 10.3 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists on average. Thompson in particular has struggled from beyond the arc, shooting only 14.3 percent from distance thus far this year; a percentage that will no doubt increase soon.
In order to make room for Durant and his max contract, the Warriors needed to jettison several core players from their recent Finals runs. Former starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are now in Dallas, Marreese Speights is a key reserve for the Clippers, and Festus Ezeli is currently rehabbing as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Replacing Barnes with Durant is a no-brainer, but the Warriors have struggled to replace the interior defense that the departing big men provided with center Zaza Pachulia and power forward David West. Pachulia is a fine rebounder and West still has an adequate mid-range game, but neither player is a good rim protector at this point in his career.
Though they are only three games into the season, the Warriors have a defensive rating of 111.0, good for No. 25 in the league. This is of course skewed by the 129 points that the Spurs put up on opening night, but they have also allowed 114 points to the New Orleans Pelicans and an even 100 to the Phoenix Suns.
The Trail Blazers met up with the Warriors at the end of preseason and, though they fell 107-96, played stretches of effective basketball in the first half, particularly while running their offensive sets.
The challenge when playing the Warriors is that teams need to pick their poison. Everyone knows what Durant and Curry can do with the ball in their hands, and having two of the best one-on-one players in the league flanked by two top-20 players in Thompson and Green limits an opponent’s ability to send a double team at either.
With Golden State still getting its defense in order, Portland does have a chance in an offensive shootout. Damian Lillard, fresh off a monster first week of the season that had him under consideration for Western Conference Player of the Week honors, tends to rise to the occasion against his hometown team.
Lillard, however, can’t do it alone. If one or several of CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, or Al-Farouq Aminu can get it going from the outside, Portland can try to simply outscore the Warriors, as they average 111.3 points per game, second-best in the NBA.
Portland could also provide an interesting look by having Turner handle the ball even more than he has thus far, and running Lillard or McCollum off screens, something that Curry struggles to defend.
There is a reason the Warriors are the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA Championship this season; it’s simply too difficult to contain all four elite-level players for an extended stretch of time. But as San Antonio showed on last week, it can be done.
Check out Peter Sampson on Blazer’s Edge Radio live today from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.! In Portland, tune in to 107.1 FM on your radio dial or visit xray.fm to stream. Today’s guest is actor and avid Blazer's Edge reader Kelly AuCoin (House of Cards, The Americans, Billions).