Portland Trail Blazers (13-12) vs. Golden State Warriors (21-6)
Monday, December 11th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Maurice Harkless (questionable)
Warriors injuries: Draymond Green (probable), Patrick McKaw (questionable), Zaza Pachulia (doubtful), Stephen Curry (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Golden State of Mind
After dropping four straight games at home to fall to 13-12, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers, as they kick off a five game road trip against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Blazers will once again be without center Jusuf Nurkic, who will miss his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. The Warriors are also down a key player with an ankle issue; Steph Curry will be sidelined for the near future after suffering a nasty looking sprain last week.
What to Watch For
Kevin Durant will be in full “Alpha-mode.” With Steph Curry sidelined, Durant, one of the most dynamic scorers in NBA history, is more than capable of filling the void. While the Warriors share the ball better than anyone in the NBA, Durant takes games over whenever necessary.
Keep your eyes on the ball. The Warriors lead the NBA in assists at a whopping 31 per game. They feature elite finishers and their championship-credential role-players have bought into Steve Kerr’s offensive system completely.
Both teams may look to go small. With Nurkic already ruled out of tonight’s game and Zaza Pachulia doubtful, we could be threatened with a heavy dose of the Meyers Leonard/Javale McGee matchup we’ve all been dying to see. On the other hand, look for both teams to go small for heavy stretches with Draymond Green, Jordan Bell, and Noah Vonleh as the biggest players on the court.
What They’re Saying
ESPN’s Nick Friedell had some quotes from Durant after his third ejection in 18 games:
"I thought he just threw us out pretty quick, to be honest," Durant said after his third ejection over the past 18 games. "We got in each other's faces, but that's just how it is, you know what I'm saying? It's late in the game. Every time I get ejected I make sure it's late in the game. I'm not messing up like that in the first or second quarter -- make sure it's late in the game if I want to do something.
"I got to be more focused, I got to be more poised," Durant added. "I can't let anybody take me off my game. I've been in the league too long. Especially somebody like Cousins, we know that he's feisty, we know that he's emotional. We know that he plays that way so I can't get involved in that. That's who he is, I got to be me."
Brad Botkin of CBS Sports wrote that Klay Thompson is having the best season of his career:
So to say he's having his best season is really saying something. Entering Friday, Thompson is putting up career highs from the field (51 percent) and 3-point range (47.4 percent), which add up to a career-high 61.9 eFG. His free throw percentage fell to 86 percent after he went 2 for 3 from the stripe on Monday at New Orleans, but that number is going to fluctuate heavily, at least for the time being, given how little he's gone to line this season (1.1 attempts per game), which is about the only possible knock on his game thus far.
"He's probably in his prime [right now]," Kerr said of Thompson. "Mentally, physically, he knows the league better than he ever has."
Kerr noted that he likes the way Thompson -- a catch-and-shoot machine if there ever was one -- has been putting the ball on the floor more this season. The difference is very subtle. Entering Thursday, his 1.46 dribbles per touch was the sixth-lowest mark among guards, but that number is up from the 1.33 dribbles per touch he posted last season. When he does put it on the floor, he's making it count by shooting a solid 41 percent on jumpers off the dribble.
Scott Rafferty of the Sporting News writes that the $3.5 million it cost the Warriors to buy the rights to Jordan Bell were well worth it:
Although Bell is limited as a scorer in the halfcourt, teams can’t simply ignore him. If they do, he will make them pay on the offensive glass, where he shined during his three years at Oregon.
Bell currently ranks 17th in the entire league with an offensive rebounding rate of 12.7 percent, putting him alongside the likes of Cody Zeller, Jonas Valanciunas, Dwight Howard and Kenneth Faried. He also ranks fourth among rookies who have played at least 10 games this season with 4.8 offensive rebounds per 100 possessions. Not only does he have great timing in those situations, Bell’s athleticism and motor helps him beat opponents to the ball.
Even with that baseline of talent, the Warriors have been a monster offensively with Bell in the lineup this season. They have put up an average of 122.2 points per 100 possessions in his 193 minutes on the court compared to 113.1 points per 100 possessions in his 1,012 minutes on the bench. It gives Bell the second best net rating on offense (+9.1) on the roster.