Golden State Warriors (2-0) at Portland Trail Blazers (0-2)
Saturday May 7, 2016
Moda Center | 5:30 p.m. PDT | Local TV/Radio: ABC; 620 AM
Portland injury report: Meyers Leonard (Out - Shoulder) | Golden State injury report: Stephen Curry (Doubtful - Knee)
SBN Affiliate: Golden State of Mind
The Trail Blazers are hoping that playing in front of their home crowd tonight for will yield different results after dropping the first two games in their Western Conference semifinals series against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The good news for Portland is that soon to be back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player award winner Stephen Curry is doubtful for tonight's game as he recovers from a knee sprain suffered in the first round against the Houston Rockets. The bad news is that the Warriors have hardly missed a beat without him.
In Game 1 of the series, Portland looked shell-shocked early, and Golden State rode a 20-point first quarter lead to victory, though the Blazers played decently the rest of the way. In Game 2, the Blazers were in control for three quarters before the Warriors clamped down and Portland tensed up, resulting in a 34-12 fourth quarter beatdown.
The Blazers need to make several on-court adjustments, but most importantly, they need to not be demoralized after Golden State's massive crunch time rally on Tuesday. It would be easy for the Blazers to accept that they are down 0-2 to the defending champs, who just happened to have the greatest regular season in history, in a series that many thought they had no business being in in the first place.
But if there is one thing that this Portland team is, it's resilient. After an entire season of defying the odds, don't expect the Blazers to roll over and allow the Warriors to coast to the Western Conference finals. But first they'll have to make some adjustments.
Though Portland did a good job sticking with Klay Thompson for most of Game 2, he has been deadly when given a little space, hitting 26-of-50 3-point shots over his last four games. Thompson has seen Maurice Harkless matched up with him on defense for a good amount of the series, and has struggled when Harkless is able to fight through screens or play him one-on-one.
However, if Harkless gambles off of Thompson, even slightly, or gets hung up on picks (which is relatively frequent considering Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green are the principle screen-setters), the Blazers have been slow to rotate to Thompson, leaving him free from the perimeter. The Blazers can have success sticking with their defensive principles against the Warriors, but the execution needs to be flawless for 48 minutes. 36 minutes, or 40 minutes, or even 45 minutes of good defense isn't enough to get it done against Golden State's lethal attack.
Portland will need to find a way to counter the Warriors' small-ball lineup that moves Green to center to facilitate around Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Thompson, and Shaun Livingston. This lineup is so fluid and mobile that it can create matchup problems at a variety of positions. Portland center Mason Plumlee, in particular, had an incredibly difficult time matched up with Draymond Green/Festus Ezeli in the fourth quarter. Not the most offensively skilled big man, Plumlee was unable to get anything resembling a good shot off. With the rest of the aforementioned Warriors clamping down off the ball, Plumlee was unable to continue his recent run as a high post facilitator, leading to poor shots or turnovers down the stretch.
The Blazers may need even more from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum tonight. When preparing a gameplan, tossing the ball to your backcourt and saying "make it happen" isn't necessarily the best strategy, but considering how Portland matches up against the Warriors' defense, especially in the paint, it might be their most viable shot. In Game 2, Lillard had a monster 17-point third quarter, which was promptly followed by a scoreless 0-3 fourth. At home in front of the rabid Moda Center crowd, Portland might as well try to stick to their defensive game plan while allowing McCollum and Lillard to dominate the ball in the hopes that one of them gets hot.
Keys to the game
Al-Farouq Aminu/Maurice Harkless - The Blazers' starting forward tandem is critical to their chances, specifically on the defensive end. Both players have the length and physicality to bother Golden State, but they have to be locked in; reaching or gambling on defense must be limited. It's reasonable to assume that they will continue defending Klay Thompson with a similar group effort tonight. Containing him like they did for most of Game 2 is critical.
Defensive Rebounding - Golden state has won the offensive glass 26-16 over the first two games of the series. The Blazers were one of the best rebounding teams in the league this season, and they have had lapses in this series where they fail to box out. Giving the Warriors second or third chances is a surefire way to fall behind quickly. Portland needs to successfully box out and continue to have their guards crash the defensive glass instead of leaking out.
Get the Warriors in Foul Trouble - The free throw battle has been relatively even, with the Warriors out-attempting the Blazers at the line 44-41 so far in the series. Portland needs to be the aggressor and see if they can get Green, Thompson, or frankly anyone of impact in foul trouble. Getting Green to pick up a couple fouls early would be especially huge, as the Warriors can essentially sub their other pieces out interchangeably (either going big or small). But with Curry out (and possibly even with him in the lineup), Green is the engine that makes the Golden State offense hum. His impact in all facets of the game is unparalleled, and forcing him to sit for extended minutes could disrupt the Warriors' flow long enough for Portland to take advantage.