Portland Trail Blazers (31-26) vs. Golden State Warriors (44-13)
Wednesday, February 14th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (questionable)
Warriors injuries: Draymond Green (questionable), Kevon Looney (questionable), Patrick McCaw (doubtful) Jordan Bell (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, WatchESPN
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Golden State of Mind
After taking a serious whooping from the surging Utah Jazz, the road doesn’t get any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers as they face the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The Blazers may be without Jusuf Nurkic, who is battling a series of ailments: lower back soreness, a sore hip, and a strained oblique. Portland will need all the help they can get as the Warriors will likely be close to full strength. Several Warriors role players are banged up, but Draymond Green is expected to play despite missing the last game with a minor finger injury.
This will be the Blazers’ last game for nine days. They pick up the action after the All-Star break on Feb. 23 in a rematch against the Jazz.
What to watch for
Who’s it going to be? The Warriors have three legit No. 1 scoring options and a defensive anchor in Green that also doubles as a triple-double threat. Golden State does a stellar job of not forcing the action and letting one of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, or Klay Thompson — based on who’s hot — take the reins on offense at various points.
Beautiful ball movement. Golden State racks up more than 30 assists a night, tops in the NBA. Despite Steve Kerr’s protestations that he is struggling to reach his team over the last month, the Warriors are as automatic as it gets when running an offensive set. The Blazers will need to bring their A+ defensive game and do their best to make life difficult by bothering passing lanes and forcing Golden State to take contested shots.
Golden State’s energy level. The Warriors have lost three of their last seven, including a 30-point blowout at the hands of the Utah Jazz and a 20-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s sometimes a challenge for great teams to stay motivated and engaged during the regular season, which is likely why Steve Kerr had various players coach the team during timeouts. Anything to keep the team fired up when they could just as easily be playing out the string until their “real” season begins.
What they’re saying
Brady Klopfer of Golden State of Mind writes that the Warriors are ready to reset over the All-Star break:
Asked about coming out of the break strong, Curry responded that, “Whatever you need to do personally to get your body right, get your mind right, get your spirit right for the post All-Star break journey, the playoff run. Make sure that happens, and hit the ground running on that Thursday.”
Of course, the All-Star break won’t be a break for everyone. Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will be playing in the game on Sunday, while also having practice on Saturday, and numerous media obligations. Thompson will also be lacing up his Antas on Saturday night in the three-point contest, and Quinn Cook and Damian Jones will be in Sunday’s G-League All-Star Game.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes detailed Kerr’s use of players as coaches during Monday’s win:
Golden State (44-13) has won three in a row but had previously dropped three of four contests. Kerr said his guys needed to hear a new voice.
”I told them the other night after the last game [on Saturday] that we were going to do it,” Kerr said. “It’s their team. I think that’s one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It’s not your team, it’s not [general manager] Bob Myers’ team, it’s not [owner] Joe Lacob’s team -- although I’m not going to tell Joe that.
”It’s the players’ team, and they have to take ownership of it. And as coaches, our job is to nudge them in the right direction, guide them, but we don’t control them. They determine their own fate and I don’t feel like we focused well at all the last month, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I thought they communicated really well together and drew up some nice plays, and it was a good night for the guys.”
The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks discusses Kevin Durant’s Defensive Player of the Year candidacy:
He is a 3 who can slide up to the 1 as easily as he can slide down to the 5. He can bang with the biggest players, contest the shots of the longest, and stay in front of the fastest. Even in a league full of some of the best athletes in the world, Durant has unique physical gifts. There’s nothing he can’t do on a basketball court. One of the most unguardable players in the NBA might also be its most gifted defender.
The most striking part of Durant’s defensive transformation is his shot-blocking. He has become an elite rim protector. After never averaging more than 1.3 blocks a game in nine seasons with the Thunder/SuperSonics franchise, he’s no. 4 in the NBA this season at 1.9. Opposing players shoot a lower field goal percentage at the rim against Durant (57.9 percent) than high-level interior defenders like Steven Adams, Clint Capela, and Myles Turner. No shot is safe when he is on the floor, no matter where it is taken. There’s almost nothing an offensive player can do when Durant is hunting them down at the end of a possession. According to the tracking numbers at Synergy Sports, he has guarded 67 shots taken with fewer than four seconds left on the shot clock this season and allowed only 24 points.