10:00 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Warriors -2, Over/Under: 234
With the All-Star Break in sight, longtime rivals renew acquaintances as the sputtering Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Golden State Warriors from MODA Center in Portland, Oregon. It seems like yesterday that the Warriors (19-16, 8th in Western Conference) were in the midst of arguably the most successful five-year run in NBA history, advancing to five consecutive NBA Finals and winning three Larry O’Brien trophies in the process. However, with nearly half of the season in the books it’s become abundantly clear that those days of glory are highly unlikely to return anytime soon for a variety of reasons. Since losing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, they lost both (2013-2014 MVP) Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles and (sharpshooting All-Star) Klay Thompson to a torn ACL in a span of days, with the former leaving the franchise a few months later in Free Agency and the latter spending the ensuing 2019-2020 campaign rehabbing from said injury. Then after just four games, (two-time MVP) Stephen Curry (29.5 PTS, 47.8% FG, 41.3% 3FG, 5.4 REB, 6.4 AST, 1.3 STL, 25.2 PER) would miss all but one of the following sixty-six games with a broken hand, leaving Golden State to plummet to a miserable 15-50 finish (.231), their worst win percentage since the 2000-2001 season. Initially it appeared that Steve Kerr’s charges were set up quite nicely for a revenge tour, for they were already NBA champions before adding Durant to the mix back in 2016, and after acquiring (athletic Swingman) Andrew Wiggins (17.1 PTS, 46.3% FG, 34.8% 3FG, 4.5 REB, 2.1 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.1 BLK, 13.2 PER) at the Trade Deadline and using the No. Two Overall Pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on (promising Center) James Wiseman (12.0 PTS, 51.5% FG, 5.9 REB, 0.6 AST, 1.1 BLK, 14.8 PER) the rotation appeared to be reinvigorated for a new era. Unfortunately, what initially looked great on paper has since been scrapped as Thompson once again suffered a devastating injury, inexplicably tearing his Achilles tendon during a pickup game weeks before the truncated preseason was to begin. As a result, it’s pretty much been the Steph Curry Show thus far, with arguably the most lethal sniper in NBA history forced to carry a misfit cast of characters on his shoulders. While Wiggins has played well and Wiseman has shown flashes, (journeyman Swingman) Kelly Oubre (15.5 PTS, 43.6% FG, 32.1% 3FG, 5.9 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.8 BLK, 13.7 PER) has been nothing short of a square peg in a round pole, while the Bench has been little more than afterthought. Even (veteran Forward) Draymond Green (5.7 PTS, 39.1% FG, 22.4% 3FG, 6.0 REB, 8.5 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.7 BLK, 11.2 PER), who remains the team’s chief playmaker in the Halfcourt has continued to see his shooting figures plummet, netting a dismal 39.1% of this attempts from the field, including a scant 22.4% from the perimeter en route to only 5.7 points per game. Simply put, the spacing that they once enjoyed with Curry, Thompson, and Durant has disappeared, with opponents able to funnel wave after wave of defenders towards the 32-year old, who has seen more double-teams than ever before. With that said, the chef has absolutely been cooking of late, singlehandedly keeping the Warriors on the fringes of the Playoff picture out West; in the month of February he averaged 32.1 points on 49.8% shooting from the field, including 41.9% from three, with 5.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.4 steals over the last fifteen games, highlighted by a 57-point outburst against the Dallas Mavericks on February 6th, with the Dubs going 8-7 over that span.
“We were just never in it. Right from the start, we were fouling them like crazy. There are going to be a handful of games that are inexplicable. You don’t spend too much on this one. You flush the toilet and move on.”Steve Kerr on the Warriors’ embarrassing 117-91 loss at the Lakers on Sunday night, in which they trailed by as many as 35 points
When we last saw the Warriors, their three-game winning steak came to a crushing end as they were humiliated in a 1117-91 blowout loss at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. When these sides met at STAPLES Center back in early January, the Warriors managed to erase a 14-point Fourth Quarter deficit to steal a 115-113 victory over the reigning champions. On that night, Golden State shot a blistering 60.9% from the field in the final period as they outscored the hosts 34-21 over the final twelve minutes of action. Unfortunately, this rematch in the City of Angels would feature a very different outcome for the visitors, who were never really in the contest at any point. This one was over with early, folks, as Kerr’s charges were overwhelmed in the First Quarter in which they were outscored 41-21, shooting a meager 8-of-22 from the field (36.4%), including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc (18.2%) and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line (75.0%) as Los Angeles bested them in all three categories, shooting 11-of-20 overall (55.0%), along with 6-of-9 from downtown (66.7%) and a whopping 13-of-16 from the charity stripe (81.2%). The Dubs would allow their opponent to score a season-high seventy-three points in the First Half alone, while in the end also posting high-water marks in rebounds (60) and steals (14). Conversely, their 8-of-34 shooting from the perimeter (23.5%), was their fourth-worst shooting performance of the year, while their three offensive rebounds reflected their inability to compete on the glass, setting a season-low. Furthermore, they committed twenty turnovers for the fourth time this campaign, which the Lakers managed to parlay into twenty-two points. In the end, it was a forgettable performance for Curry was doggedly defended by the home side throughout the game, totaling just sixteen points on 5-of-13 shooting (38.5%), including 2-of-7 from three (28.6%), with four rebounds, and seven assists, while Oubre was the only other starter to finish in double-digit scoring with fourteen on 6-of-10 shooting (60.0%). (Young Forward) Eric Paschall (10.2 PTS, 51.4% FG, 32.5% 3FG, 3.3 REB, 1.3 AST, 14.6 PER) scored a team-high eighteen points in just over twenty-two minutes of action as he came on for an injured Draymond Green, who left the affair with a sprained left ankle in the Second Quarter. The 30-year old had just six points before heading to the locker room, while also being hit with his eighth technical foul of the season. Kerr has since labeled him as Day-to-Day, with his status for tonight’s meeting with the Blazers currently up in the air.
Meanwhile, the Warriors will receive no sympathy from the Blazers (19-14, 5th in Western Conference), who for the second consecutive season find themselves beset by injuries to a number of key personnel, but just as they have in the past, they’ve found a way to overcome these trials. Then again, Portland is used to playing under these circumstances by now, with (Head Coach) Terry Stotts and his Coaching Staff having performed an admirable job of conditioning their roster as they have had to make good use of the depth on hand. Already without (young Forward) Zach Collins, who has yet to play a single game this season after undergoing multiple surgeries on his ankle, the team was dealt two HUGE blows during a four-day stretch in Mid-January as both (towering Center) Jusuf Nurkic (9.8 PTS, 48.5% FG, 7.7 REB, 2.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.9 BLK, 16.0 PER) and (sharpshooting Guard) C.J. McCollum (26.7 PTS, 47.3% FG, 44.1% 3FG, 3.9 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.3 STL, 26.3 PER) suffered significant injuries, with the former lost to a broken wrist and the latter sidelined with a broken foot. It was indeed a shame to see both players go down for prolonged periods of time, particularly given the circumstances of their respective campaigns at that point; Nurkic, who had missed nearly all of the previous season with a serious leg injury, was playing very well after a solid showing within the Bubble, while McCollum was on pace for his first All-Star selection averaging career-highs in a slew of categories including points (26.7), three-point percentage (44.1%), two-point percentage (51.3%), assists (5.0), and steals (1.3). As a result, it’s been quite the ride for the Blazers who have experienced peaks and valleys as they’ve managed to keep their heads above water in the twenty games since the duo went down; Stotts’ charges have gone 11-9 over the stretch, winning six consecutive games at one point immediately followed by a four-game losing streak that they recently snapped on Monday night. As you can imagine, (All-NBA Point Guard) Damian Lillard (29.6 PTS, 44.5% FG, 38.0% 3FG, 4.3 REB, 8.1 AST, 1.0 STL, 26.5 PER) has played no small part in their efforts, averaging a robust 30.9 points on 44.7% shooting from the field and 38.4% from beyond the arc, along with 4.0 rebounds and 8.9 assists without his fellow starters, and has scored at least thirty points in a dozen of those matchups. With that said, we’ve come to expect this level of play from the Bubble’s MVP, but it’s been the performance of the supporting cast that has been the big story coming out of the Pacific Northwest. (Veteran Center) Enes Kanter (11.6 PTS, 58.3% FG, 11.5 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.5 TL, 0.7 BLK, 21.5 PER) has looked comfortable assuming Nurkic’s minutes in his return to Portland via Free Agency after spending a year in Boston, while (ten-time All-Star Forward) Carmelo Anthony (13.6 PTS, 40.2% FG, 39.3% 3FG, 3.4 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.8 BLK, 14.4 PER) continues to impress in a variety of roles (including as a makeshift Center, no less) after being rescued by the franchise following a lost 2018-2019 season in which he (unjustly) spent in basketball oblivion. The 36-year old was instrumental in his side’s aforementioned six-game win streak, averaging 17.8 points on 44.8% shooting from the floor, including 44.4% from three. Furthermore, (veteran Swingman) Robert Covington (7.7 PTS, 37.3% FG, 33.8% 3FG, 6.5 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.5 STL, 1.1 BLK, 10.0 PER) has been a boon to them on both ends of the floor, while (young Guards) Gary Trent Jr. (15.5 PTS, 43.1% FG, 41.8% 3FG, 2.1 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 13.2 PER) and Anfernee Simons (8.2 PTS, 39.0% FG, 40.7% 3FG, 2.4 REB, 1.3 AST, 11.1 PER) continue to repay the trust that Stotts has placed in them filling the void in the Backcourt left by McCollum. With all that said, we have a feeling that the Blazers will no doubt be welcoming the respite that is the All-Star Break, for frankly they looked absolutely gassed during that aforementioned four-game losing streak; while their defensive issues certainly persisted over that span, allowing 115.8 points on 46.5% shooting overall and 35.2% from three, with 25.5 assists in comparison to just 8.5 turnovers, they simply couldn’t muster the firepower to keep up with their opponents, averaging a meager 102.5 points on 41.2% shooting, including 32.6% from downtown, while dishing out just 18.5 assists opposed to committing 13.0 turnovers. This has long been a jump-shooting team under Stotts, and while the barrage of three-pointers isn’t out of character for this team, it certainly looked excessive in those four losses, which included a season-high FIFTY-FIVE attempts in a 118-111 loss to the Washington Wizards. Portland ranks second overall in both three-pointers made (16.3) and attempted (42.2), so you know that that’s a big part of their game, which in a make or miss league makes all the difference. Fortunately for them, those shots would fall in volume in their latest outing…
“I like the way Melo stuck with it. He got off to a slow start in the first half, but he ended up making a lot of plays in the first half and obviously his shooting in the second half really got us over the hump. I always like it, no matter who it is, but when Melo gets on a roll it’s fun to watch.”Terry Stotts on Carmelo Anthony’s 29-point performance in the Blazers’ Monday night’s 123-111 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, snapping a four-game losing streak
When we last saw the Trail Blazers, they managed to snap that aforementioned four-game losing streak in their return home following a six-game road trip in a 123-111 rout of the Charlotte Hornets from MODA Center on Monday night. The hosts would get off to a slow start on the defensive end as they were outscored 33-27 in the period, in which both teams shot 50.0% or better, with Charlotte netting a scorching 14-of-23 from the field (60.9%), assisting on a healthy eleven of those field goals and committing just a pair of turnovers. With that said, Portland would eventually wrest control of the affair as the visitors ran out of gas with only nine players available due to a rash of injuries. Squared away at 59-59 at Halftime, the home side outscored the visiting side 64-52 over the course of the Second Half, leading by as many as nineteen at one point, shooting 58.1% from the floor, including 12-of-22 from beyond the arc (54.5%), with fourteen assists and seven turnovers. In the end, Stotts had to be happy with balance that his troops exhibited with six different players scoring in double-figures, including three with twenty or more, led surprisingly by the aforementioned Anthony, who rolled out a season-high twenty-nine points. The veteran embraced Charlotte’s (Rookie Point Guard) LaMelo Ball before the tip-off, and relished the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the young gun, drilling 6-of-10 attempts from downtown (60.0%), along with three rebounds, a pair of assists, and a season-best five steals. With that performance, Anthony became the oldest player in NBA history to put 25+ points and 5+ steals in a game since Scottie Pippen did so back in 2001. Covington also added a season-high twenty-one points on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting (72.7%), including 5-of-7 from three (71.4%), with ten rebounds, and a pair of assists, steals, and blocks apiece. Not to be forgotten, Lillard put a bow on the victory with twenty-one points and ten assists, but continued to struggle from the field on 8-of-21 shooting (38.1%), though contributed to Portland’s franchise-best twenty-four three-point field goals, netting 6-of-15 attempts (40.0%). And that would ultimately prove to be the difference in this contest where the Blazers drained 24-of-46 threes (52.2%), outscoring the Hornets by a whopping TWENTY-SEVEN points in that regard. Needless to say, this win was an important one for a team that had fallen to sixth in the standings out West following their losing skid. Monday night’s win positioned them back into fifth and on the first line of that second tier of teams in the Playoff hierarchy, holding a narrow lead over the San Antonio Spurs in terms of win percentage. Why is the positioning so important, you ask? Well, falling into that six-through-eight range would likely ensure a date with either the Utah Jazz or either of the Los Angeles sides in the First Round, whereas fifth would mean a matchup with the young Phoenix Suns, who haven’t made the Playoffs in a decade. Stotts saw his outfit run out of gas against the Lakers in the First Round a year ago, and would likely prefer to avoid seeing the reigning champions altogether, particularly after they were thrashed in Los Angeles in a 102-93 loss on Friday night.