Golden State Warriors (3-8) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (9-4)
TV: 7:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area
The Warriors return home from their five-game, seven-day road trip for a well-deserved, extended homestand of … one game. That’s right, the Warriors get the 9-4 Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena tonight and then head back on the road for a difficult swing through Texas to play the Mavericks (9-3) and Spurs (4-6 . . . that’s not a typo, the Spurs are struggling this season).
Tonight’s game should be particularly difficult for the Warriors, as the Blazers are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, leading the league in field goal defense (41 percent) and holding teams to 87.5 points per game. Their roster is young, athletic, big, physical and deep. They are an excellent rebounding team, both on defense and offense. However, this game is far from a hopeless case for the Warriors, who have dominated the Trail Blazers in Oakland, winning the last eight games at Oracle Arena by an average of 12 points. This Warriors team is a little different (and certainly more injury riddled) than the Warriors teams that built up that eight-game winning streak, but if the Blazers think they can waltz into Oakland and dance back to Portland with a victory … well, you’d figure they’re smarter than that.
Portland’s starting lineup screams mismatch at nearly every position.
Point guard: Andre Miller is not the player he once was, but he’s still one of the better post-up guards in the game and he could take advantage of Stephen Curry’s slight frame in the post. However, Curry should be able to drive past and around Miller at will (just watch out for Portland’s shot blockers in the post).
Shooting guard: The Blazers are starting Steve Blake at shooting guard right now, a matchup that Monta Ellis should be able to handle as long as he remembers to close out on Blake at the 3-point line, as Blake is one of the better long-distance shooters in the NBA (though he’s shooting only 37 percent this season) and has given the Warriors fits in the past. Rudy Fernandez plays a lot off the bench for the Blazers; he has Reggie Miller-like energy and will make Ellis chase him all around the court. Ellis should be able to use his quickness to get past Blake on the perimeter, though that won’t be as easy when Fernandez, a better defender, is in the game. Anthony Morrow needs to take his open shots without hesitation and with confidence because the Blazers close out on open shooters quickly.
Small forward: Portland’s two-time All-Star Brandon Roy is a nightmare for the Warriors (and any other team the Blazers play). Who will guard him? The options at small forward are Corey Maggette, Anthony Morrow and maybe Anthony Randolph. None of those players can hope to defend Roy, who is averaging 20.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds this season. It’s possible Maggette and Randolph could strike back at Roy on offense with their bulk (Maggette) and length (Randolph), but it won’t be enough to negate Roy’s considerable presence.
Power forward: Vladimir Radmanovich and Randolph will have trouble matching up with Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who has a terrific game inside and out. Aldridge has been playing very well lately, averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in the Blazers past seven games (6-1).
Center: Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, is playing much better than he did last year in his rookie season, averaging 9.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in only 24 minutes per game (in starter’s minutes — 36 — those numbers look like this: 14.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.5 blocks). Oden is still very foul-prone, which is the reason he plays so few minutes. Mikki Moore and Randolph can’t guard him, so the Warriors would do well to send Ellis, Curry, Maggette and others at the rim to try and get Oden some quick fouls and force him out of the game. Oden’s backup, Joel Przybilla, is a good player but not nearly the presence Oden has become.
On paper, this game doesn’t look promising for the Warriors. Golden State has to push the fast break, move the ball around with smart passes, and hit their shots tonight. If the Blazers can control the tempo and force a half-court game from the Warriors, there’s no chance. The Blazers are too big and too good defensively. The Warriors have to turn this into a track meet. Portland still isn’t very comfortable playing a fast-tempo game (a surprise considering the athleticism and talent on their roster) and a frenetic pace established by the Warriors could put the Blazers on their heels.
Here’s a detailed statistical comparison of the two teams.
Here’s the Associated Press preview of the game.
Here’s feltbot’s preview of the game.
Here’s a look at the Warriors from the Oregonian.
Here’s an article that says the Warriors should sign Allen Iverson. Don’t do it!