Portland Trail Blazers (41-41) at Golden State Warriors (67-15)
April 16, 2017, 12:30 PST
Watch: ABC; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Allen Crabbe (probable), Tim Quarterman (questionable), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Warriors injuries: Matt Barnes (out), Kevon Looney (out)
SBN Affiliate: Golden State Of Mind
10:30 a.m. Update: Jusuf Nurkic is out for today’s game.
The Trail Blazers will begin their fourth consecutive playoff journey by taking on the Warriors in what many consider to be a lopsided affair. This is the second straight season that Portland will face Golden State in the postseason, which could amplify the emotion on the court due to the familiarity between these two organizations.
Despite the laundry-list of names on the injury report, it appears that Allen Crabbe is prepared to play through any lingering pain in his left foot, and it looks like Jusuf Nurkic’s situation is cautiously moving in the right direction (or not). If he eventually returns, the Bosnian Beast won’t be the only new face in this rekindled series, as Kevin Durant is now healthy himself, making the Warriors even more dangerous than before.
Durant is three games into his return to action, and has recorded a double-double in two of those three contests. The former Texas standout poses several problems, but the biggest issue will involve how coach Terry Stotts adjusts his defense to help the Blazers’ backcourt. Portland was able to hide Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on defense last year by having them cover Harrison Barnes. The addition of Durant removes that luxury in a big way, which will force the Blazers’ talented offensive duo to guard Steph Curry and Klay Thompson while on the court together.
The Warriors won’t be the only team unveiling an expensive free agent acquisition in playoffs for the first time, as the Blazers will look to Evan Turner to carry some of the ball handling load on offense. One of the main reasons the former Celtics sixth man was brought in over the summer was to help alleviate the pressure that Portland’s backcourt experienced in last year’s playoffs.
It is no secret that Turner has endured his fair share of troubles since joining the Blazers, but his veteran experience could payoff down the stretch. Turner was part of a Boston team that gave Golden State fits last year, one of the only teams to do so in the regular season, and his defensive intensity will be called upon once again to help corral the Warriors’ perimeter players.
Nurkic or not, the Blazers must use Game 1 to set the tone for the rest of the series. In the four losses to Golden State in the regular season, Portland has fallen behind by an average of 10.5 points in the first quarter, which is a massive hill to climb against an opponent with a surplus of offensive talent. If the Blazers can stay close in this one, it could plant some doubt in the minds of the re-tooled Warriors.