PORTLAND, Ore. — The Golden State Warriors go into Moda Center on Tuesday night having won 11 of its last 14 games against the Portland Trailblazers.
If they want that trend to continue, the Dubs must find an answer for Portland’s All-Star guard Damian Lillard and overcome subpar rim protection.
The Warriors have felt the departure of Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights, and Andrew Bogut down low through the season’s first three games. The Warriors’ new starting center Zaza Pachulia can handle himself on the block defensively, but altering shots at the rim is not his strong suit. Kevin Durant (10.3 rebounds per game) and Draymond Green (12.0 rpg) have seen an uptick in their rebounding averages, and need to contest drives to the rim if the Warriors hope to escape against a playoff contender.
“Blocked shots or not, our defense requires weak-side help just like everybody’s,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said pregame. “Draymond is one of the best defensive players in the league, we all know that. When his activity level is high, then our defense gets dramatically better.”
Al-Farouq Aminu, Mo Harkless, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh will figure to be around the painted area for the Blazers. Kerr said although shot blocking has been scarce at the rim, the Warriors are figuring out other ways to be disruptive on the defensive end.
“We have shot blockers on the perimeter; we have good position defenders,” Kerr said. “We have some new characters, and that has shown a little bit. Our communication maybe isn’t where it needs to be, not tied together yet. That will come.”
On the eve of the 2016-17 NBA season, Kerr predicted that Damian Lillard would win the NBA’s MVP race. Through a small, three-game sample, Lillard looks the part, averaging 35 ppg, 8 rpg, and 5.3 apg.
Kerr said the team would likely throw a few different defenders at Lillard throughout the game, limiting the dynamic scorer’s comfort level.
The Warriors will try to deny Lillard a repeat of a game last season in which Lillard scored a game-high 51 points. The Warriors lost that game 137-105 in Portland last year.
When asked how to limit Lillard’s big-game potential, Kerr was quick.
“If you have any suggestions, you just let me know,” he said with a chuckle.
Golden State would like to see improvement in something that would be previously unthinkable: the Warriors are shooting just 27 percent from the 3-point line. Splash Brother Klay Thompson will look to raise his 3-point efficiency from a 10 percent cellar.
— Kevin Durant averaged 31.3 points per game against Portland as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder a season ago and has scored 94 points in his first three games as a Warrior, joining only Wilt Chamberlain as Golden State players to reach 90 points over the first three games in the uniform.
— Damian Lillard averaged over 31 ppg in the Western Conference Finals a year ago, his most in any playoff series in his young career and most by any Portland player in history.