PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (15-21)
at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (30-5)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -16, Total: 223.5
Do the Blazers stand a chance in Oakland if Damian Lillard is out?
Following a dismal stretch in which they lost 10 of 11 games, the Trail Blazers have won two of their last three after a 95-89 road win over the Timberwolves on Sunday night (POR +6). The win improved Portland’s record to 15-21, 14-22 against the spread and 6-14 on the road. They are now half a game ahead of the Nuggets for third place in the Northwest Division and sit in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, one game behind the Kings for playoff position. The Blazers’ other recent win was a 102-89 victory over that Sacramento team on Dec. 28 (POR -2). They will face some much stiffer competition on Wednesday night in a road game against the two-time Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors. At 30-5 on the season (16-18-1 ATS), the Warriors have a two-game cushion atop the West and are on pace to win 70 games. After losing to rival Cleveland on Christmas, Golden State has won three straight home games against the Raptors, Mavericks and Nuggets (1-2 ATS). The most recent was a 127-119 win over the Nuggets on Monday night (DEN +15.5). Over the last five seasons, teams coming off a SU win as an underdog (POR) and revenging two straight losses in which the opponent scored 100-plus points are 99-44 Under when the total is at least 200. Since the beginning of last season, Golden State is 44-22 ATS against teams averaging at least 103 points per game. Star Portland PG Damian Lillard has missed four straight games with an ankle injury and is considered doubtful for Wednesday night.
With a league-worst defensive efficiency rating of 113.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, the Trail Blazers have, well, the worst defense in the league. Their offense is better, tied for eighth in the NBA with 109.7 points scored per 100 possessions. Playing at a pace of 96.9 possessions per 48 minutes, they rank just outside the top third of the league’s fastest teams. Considering he is the heart and soul of the franchise, it is curious that the absence of Lillard (27.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.2 APG) has resulted in solid play from Portland. He had played every game up until the last four, and he is seventh in the league in scoring and also seventh with a usage rate of 31.1%; a Blazers team without Lillard in the lineup has to radically adjust its style of play. He is, however, a poor defender, and Portland has allowed only 95.8 points per game in (the small sample size of) his absence compared to 110.9 points allowed per game on the season as a whole. Lillard’s mate in the backcourt, SG C.J. McCollum (22.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.7 APG) has stepped up to be the team’s primary scorer. He has scored at least 29 points in three of the last four games, and he had a career-high 43 to will the team to a win over Minnesota. C Mason Plumlee (11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.2 APG) is the team’s lone consistent scorer on the inside, and he is tied for second among NBA centers in assists. SF Maurice Harkless (12.0 PPG) is third on the team in scoring.
You might not be surprised to find out that, in averaging 116.2 points per 100 possessions, the Golden State Warriors have the most efficient offense in the NBA. It is somewhat more surprising—although not all that much—that they also have the league’s best defensive efficiency rating of 103.7 points allowed per 100 possessions. They trail only the Nets for the league’s fastest pace at 100.4 possessions per 48 minutes. Whether by coincidence or not, the degree to which PG Stephen Curry (23.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.7 SPG) and SF Kevin Durant (25.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.5 BPG) truly share the load on offense is remarkable. Their scoring averages are similar, but their usage rates (27.9 and 27.8, respectively) are near identical. Curry averaged 26.8 points per game in the month of November and only 20.9 in December; he has gone nine straight games without reaching 30 points. He shot 37.8% from three in December and his 40.1% mark on the season is down more than five percentage points from last year. Durant is the league’s eighth-leading scorer; more impressively, he is 13th in field goal percentage (53.7) despite taking 17.0 shots per game, many of which are jumpers. Only two players ranked ahead of him in FG% top 10.0 FGA. SG Klay Thompson (21.7 PPG) actually shoots more often than Curry, and he is fourth in the NBA in making 3.1 three-pointers per game. PF Draymond Green (10.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 7.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG) is less popular among fans this year, but he’s just as good.