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Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Preview

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The battle of those who fell during the holiday revs up in Oakland between the Warriors and Blazers.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (19-15) at Golden State Warriors (23-12)

December 27th, 2018 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Warriors injuries: Jacob Evans (probable), DeMarcus Cousins (out), Damian Jones (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Golden State of Mind

Familiarity breed contempt, and the entire league is familiar with the resume of the Golden State Warriors. It has been just over a month since Portland’s last trip to Oakland, where the Warriors won 125-97. The Blazers would like to reverse fortunes as they fell to the Utah Jazz for the second time in five days on Christmas Day 117-96. Damian Lillard had another strong night, but the other starters did not join in the festivities.

The Warriors did not have any more luck than the Blazers on the 25th, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers 127-101. Golden State shot uncharacteristically bad against a Lakers squad that was missing LeBron James for much of the second half. They will look to break their current tie with the Denver Nuggets for first place in the Western Conference.

What to watch for

  • Perimeter Defense. This may be the same dead horse that has beaten many times before, but against Golden State, perimeter defense looms larger than against almost anyone else. In their last three losses, the Warriors shot a combined 26.8% from three. In their last five wins? 38% from three. Stopping them from behind the arc isn’t a secure method of victory, but it makes everything else much easier.
  • Someone Help Damian Carry the Load. Through three quarters against the Jazz, Blazers starters not named Damian Lillard had shot just 4-of-16 from the field. In particular were the struggles of the second- and third-leading scorers on the team, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Portland will not go far if Lillard is the only reliable offensive weapon.
  • Win the Bench Battle. The Warriors’ depth has been suspect this season. While Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant are still a force to be reckoned with, the bench has dipped dramatically from the previous two seasons. Quinn Cook leads the reserves at 7.1 points per game, and normal bench carrier Andre Iguodala has been a non-factor offensively. The Blazers cannot allow the Warriors bench to get comfortable and allow the dangerous Golden State starters rest.

What they’re saying

Hugo Kitano of Golden State of Mind writes that Klay Thompson is better when he allows the game to come to him, rather than force the issue:

For Klay, less is more. The offense will be fine with him stepping back into more of a secondary role. Sooner or later, he’ll be hitting his threes at an elite rate again.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle pens that DeMarcus Cousins’ return may be further out than what has been guessed recently:

Golden State has yet to release a timetable for Cousins’ return, but Kerr conceded this week that Cousins is “really not that close.” He still needs to get his conditioning back and find a rhythm after having not played an NBA game in 11 months.