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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors Preview

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Two of the NBA’s hottest teams square off in Portland.

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (39-26) vs. Golden State Warriors (51-14)

Friday, March 9th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (day-to-day)
Warriors injuries: Andre Iguodala (doubtful), David West (day-to-day), Jordan Bell (day-to-day), Patrick McCaw (out), Stephen Curry (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

The Portland Trail Blazers begin one of their toughest stretches of games this season Friday against the Golden State Warriors. Portland beat the Warriors 123-117 in the Moda Center right before the All-Star break, and neither team has lost a game since. Portland enters the game on an eight-game winning streak.

The Warriors are playing their second game of a back-to-back after beating the Spurs at home 110-107 on Thursday. Steph Curry rolled his ankle early in the game and did not return; he will not play against Portland. Golden State has now won seven in a row after losing to Portland.

What to watch for

  • Slowing down the Warrior stars. Kevin Durant has led the way for Golden State in their matchups with Portland so far this season. He scored 50 in the Blazers’ win in February and led the team with 28 in the Warriors’ 111-104 victory in December. The former MVP is having another excellent season, averaging 25.9 point per game. It’s Steph Curry, however, who is leading Golden State in scoring. The two-time MVP is putting up 26.8 points per game and leads the league with 4.3 made 3-pointers per game. With Curry out, expect the Warriors to lean more heavily on Durant as well as fellow All-Stars Klay Thompson, who leads the league in 3-point percentage, and Draymond Green, who had a triple-double in Thursday’s win over San Antonio.
  • Lillard’s hot streak. Dame’s recent stretch of excellent basketball has vaulted him into the national conversation. He’s averaging a blistering 33.8 points in his last 11 games while shooting over 40 percent on 3’s. The Oakland native loves playing the Warriors. He put up 44 in the pre-All-Star game win and contributed 39 in the December loss. For his career, Lillard is averaging 26.7 points against his hometown team — his highest average against any Western Conference team. The Blazers will likely need another big night from their star if they hope to win this one.
  • Defending the 3-point line. The Warriors lead the league in 3-point shooting with a 39.8 percent mark from behind the arc. The Blazers are only a couple of teams behind them at 38 percent. So far this season the team that shot better from deep has won. In December, Golden State made 50 percent of their 3’s to Portland’s 25 percent. That discrepancy evened out in their second matchup with the Blazers shooting slightly better — 36.4 percent to the Warriors’ 35.1. Matching Golden State from distance would go a long way in helping Portland’s chances.

What they’re saying

Hugo Kitano of Golden State of Mind writes that the Warriors are playing more focused on defense after an inconsistent start to the season:

The Golden State Warriors’ intensity and focus has been inconsistent this season, and it has manifested mostly on the defensive end.

The defense, which has been top five in defensive rating in the league for four years in a row, has been simply awful at times. According to NBA.com’s statistics, the Warriors have the sixth best rating; other sites, like Basketball Reference, have them even lower.

Luckily, the season is drawing to a close and the Warriors seemed focused on playing with effort and poise. In the past 10 games, their defensive rating of 100.0 ranks third in the league. Draymond Green, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is especially active.

Writing for FiveThirtyEight, Chris Herring wonders if showboating is hurting Golden State:

The Warriors throw the ball away more than any other team and have grown progressively more careless with their passes over the course of their four-year run of greatness. Their reckless passes — which are often of the one-handed, behind-the-back or alley-oop variety — have resulted in turnovers on a league-high 8.8 percent of their possessions so far this season, according to data from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats. This would represent the second straight year that the Warriors led the NBA in bad passes that resulted in turnovers and the fourth consecutive season in which Golden State saw its bad-pass rate increase.

And the data suggests that Golden State can’t shake off the turnovers like it’s done in the past. The Warriors went 7-1 and 10-4 in games where they had at least 20 turnovers in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively. But last season they went 4-2 in those games, and they now own a 3-3 tally when coughing it up that frequently.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz is hoping for a Blazers-Warriors playoff series this postseason:

The Trail Blazers and Warriors played an incredibly entertaining conference semifinals series in 2016, and a rematch would be fun. Damian Lillard’s stage presence, CJ McCollum’s shotmaking, Jusuf Nurkic’s combustible energy and all those pretty perimeter sets make for good April basketball.