Can they keep it going?
The Portland Trail Blazers shocked a national television audience when they took down the Miami Heat Thursday night, but now they’ll have to enter a hostile environment and steal a game on the road against a surging Western Conference opponent in the Golden State Warriors.
Matchup: Portland (20-15) @ Golden State Warriors (22-12)
Venue: ORACLE Arena
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Date: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013
The Warriors have been one of the biggest surprises out West this season. But then again, the Blazers have too, haven’t they?
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Golden State Warriors currently sit in the fifth spot in the Western Conference, which is a place not many expected them to be at this point in the season. Anybody who looked at their roster coming into the year knew that they would be improved, but not even the most optimistic fans of the team could have predicted the kind of success they’ve found so quickly.
Portland, on the other hand, is still fighting to stay in the postseason race, but they’re doing it with a flair and consistency that is surprising to anyone who watched them compete at the beginning of the year.
Heading into Friday night’s matchup, two-and-a-half games separate these two squads. Both teams are offense-oriented, and this game has the potential to be a high-scoring one at Oracle Arena.
What to Watch: Portland
There are a number of factors that could push this game in Portland’s favor, but the No. 1 storyline coming in is how well Damian Lillard plays in his hometown for the first time as an NBA point guard.
We’ve talked about the rookie this season as having poise and being able to control his pace and emotions. You have to wonder, though, if a homecoming will finally be enough to rattle the young prospect.
Throughout the season, we’ve seen that the Blazers’ success is often times directly related to how well Damian Lillard plays. When he performs well, so does the team. When he doesn’t perform well…you get the idea.
If Lillard is human, you just might see the nerves come out in his first game back home. But if he’s as stone cold as we all suspect he is, the emotions inside just might propel him to one of his best games to date.
What to Watch: Golden State
The Warriors are not a defensive ball club, so usually when you look at them you have to prepare for three-point shots and transition buckets.
However, there’s one glaring stat that the Blazers must look at when game planning before this one.
Points in the paint.
When Golden State gives up 41 points or more in the paint, they are an underwhelming 5-10. But when they hold their opponents to 40 points in the paint or fewer, their record spikes to an impressive 17-2.
The Blazers don’t score a lot down low, but if they can follow the blue print that has been set this season, they’ll challenge the Warriors in a way that has proven thus far.
Although these two teams have yet to face off this season, you can tell by looking at their rosters that there is going to be a number of great matchups come Friday night.
At the point guard position, Damian Lillard is going to take on Stephen Curry, who is having a career year. Both players can score from anywhere on the floor, and both have been known to take over late with the game on the line.
At the small forward position, Nicolas Batum will be facing off against rookie forward Harrison Barnes. The two have long, lanky frames, and they’re both the kind of players who can have an impact on both sides of the floor.
But where this game is going to be focused is at the power forward position, where two players will likely be battling for one All-Star spot come February.
LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee are two of the game’s best players at the 4-position. They are both offensive juggernauts, and they both know how to rebound the ball. Whichever player can put together a better performance Friday night could very well lead his team to victory.
Portland: OUT—Meyers Leonard
Warriors: DAY-TO-DAY—Charles Jenkins, Andris Biedrins
If the Blazers want to avoid a letdown after their big home win, they have to steal a win on the road, which is something they haven’t been good at so far this season.