Portland Trail Blazers (0-1) at Golden State Warriors (1-0)
April 19, 2017, 7:30 PST
Watch: TNT, KGW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Tim Quarterman(questionable), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Warriors injuries: Kevin Durant (questionable), Shaun Livingston (questionable), Matt Barnes (questionable), Kevon Looney (out)
SBN Affiliate: Golden State Of Mind
After dropping a hard-fought Game 1 to the Warriors on Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers get another crack at stealing a game in Oracle Arena tonight—and this time they may have some help. The Warriors announced yesterday that Kevin Durant is questionable with a calf strain sustained during Golden State’s 121-109 victory over Portland.
Durant isn’t the only Warrior dealing with a minor injury; backup point guard Shaun Livingston is questionable with a sprained finger while Matt Barnes is still nursing a sprained ankle.
Of course, the Warriors played without Durant for 19 games earlier in the season and had little trouble dispatching opponents after a brief adjustment period, rattling off a 15-4 record while he recovered. But the possibility of a missing or hampered Durant has to come as good news for the Blazers, who bravely fought all game but had difficulty shutting down Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and especially Draymond Green.
On Portland’s end, center Jusuf Nurkic told reporters yesterday that he would not be active for Game 2. With little interior presence and the lack of a true third scorer in his absence, Portland once again will turn to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined to score 75 points in the first game of the series.
The real question for the Blazers: “Who else is going to step up and shoulder some of the scoring load?”
While the highest-scoring backcourt in the NBA did everything asked of them and more, outside of Evan Turner, the rest of the team was a virtual no-show. It wasn’t just that shots weren’t falling either; the supporting cast looked timid. It’s easy to forget that this is the youngest roster in the NBA, and there was a little bit of the “deer in the headlights look” with some guys on Sunday.
Look for coach Terry Stotts to call a few more plays designed to get guys like Turner and Allen Crabbe open looks, but if they hesitate at all, their goose is already cooked. The Warriors know what playoff-level defense looks like, and if Portland is going to land a quality punch, they need to come out with swagger and firing on all cylinders.
That’s not a silly as it sounds—the Blazers got nothing from their supporting cast and clammed up for a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter and still hung in for the majority of this game. The Blazers are outmatched, sure, but these guys have to be feeling good considering the circumstances. A repeat effort on defense, with a little less reliance on Lillard or McCollum and more contribution from anyone in the supporting cast and Portland has a puncher’s chance.
The danger with Golden State is that anyone is liable to erupt at any time. Even if Durant is hampered or inactive, McCollum is going to have to give another intense defensive effort on Klay Thompson. Draymond is in full playoff mode and can have his way down low against Portland’s undersized big-men-by-committee crew.
The scariest of all if you’re a Blazer fan, though, is Curry lurking after a 29-point effort that felt quiet. Steph went 9-for-19 from the floor and 3-for-8 from the 3-point line despite Lillard failing to fight over the screen time and time again. If that doesn’t change, a Curry eruption is coming in this series sooner or later.
If the Blazers are able to capitalize on the things they did well in Game 1 while making some key adjustments, they have a chance to steal one in Oracle. Going back home tied at one game a piece is light years from being down 2-0 as the eighth seed.
We know what Lillard and McCollum can do on the big stage. Let’s see what the rest of the team is made of.