Streaks collide in Rip City as W's battle Blazers

437057.jpg

Streaks collide in Rip City as W's battle Blazers

April 5, 2011

WARRIORS (33-44) vs.
PORTLAND (45-32)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

PORTLAND (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers are on the verge of clinching their third consecutive postseason berth, but coach Nate McMillan doesn't want his squad looking too far ahead. The Golden State Warriors could cause his team plenty of problems on Tuesday night.

The Blazers look to win their season-high ninth straight at home as they face a Warriors team that's dropped eight consecutive road games.

One game ahead of New Orleans and Memphis for sixth place in the Western Conference standings, Portland (45-32) will earn a spot in the playoffs with either a victory or a Houston loss to Sacramento on Tuesday.

RELATED: NBA conference standings

The Blazers could have clinched Sunday with a 104-96 win over Dallas, but the ninth-place Rockets staved off elimination with a 114-109 win against Atlanta.

"Tomorrow night we need to come out with the same intensity, focus - (the Warriors), we've had some trouble against," McMillan, whose team has won eight of 11, said following Monday's practice. "We had them here in our building and were able to escape with a (96-95) victory (on Dec. 18) with Monta Ellis missing a game winner. Then they get us down in Oakland (a 109-102 loss on Dec. 25). It's a team that can cause some problems with their speed and their ability to score."

Ellis, averaging a team-best 32.5 points against the Blazers this season after scoring 39 in the Christmas Day victory, may still be tough to cover for Wesley Matthews and Andre Miller despite suffering a strained right ankle in Wednesday's 110-91 loss at Memphis.

The Warriors sixth-year guard bounced back from that injury and scored 18 of his 32 in the third quarter of Saturday's 99-92 win over the Mavericks.

REWIND: W's contain Dirk, top Mavs in Oakland

"We just have to learn from these games," Ellis said. "Watch a lot of film and see the good things we did and correct the bad things we did. Treat every game like it's our last five. We still have a job to do and that's to finish the season up strong."

The Warriors' defense is not strong - they are 29th in scoring defense at 106.1 points per game - but they limited the Mavericks to 41.1 percent shooting from the field Saturday to improve to 16-4 when holding teams under 100 points.

The Blazers are scoring 103.6 points per game - 7.1 more than their season average - during their home winning streak. The team's last 9-0 stretch at home was a 12-game run Jan. 24-March 9, 2009.

LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Blazers with 22.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game during their current surge at home, while Gerald Wallace is averaging 16.4 and 6.9, respectively, in these contests.

Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who missed the Dec. 18 loss with a sprained right ankle, will play his first game in Portland since helping the Warriors snap a four-game road skid in this matchup with a career-high 42 points in a 122-116 victory last April 14.

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

MESA, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso’s value usually gets discussed in terms of his defense, but the A’s first baseman is putting together a very impressive spring with the bat.

The A’s poured it on the Milwaukee Brewers in a 15-5 rout Thursday, and Alonso led the parade with two homers and three RBI. Both shots came off Junior Guerra, and the first would have cleared the right field wall had it been pushed back 30 feet farther.

Alonso is hitting .382 with four homers in Cactus League play. He says the extra work he’s putting in with hitting coach Darren Bush is paying off, and manager Bob Melvin likes what he sees from a player who hit .253 last year and knocked just seven home runs for the entire regular season.

“He’s had a great approach from the minute he got here,” Melvin said. “He and Bushy had a plan. He’s using the whole field a little bit more, which keeps him on breaking balls, which allows him to track fastballs a little bit more. He’s hit a couple balls good to left-center as well.”

The A’s love the defense they get from Alonso at first, but getting more thump from him offensively would be a boost for Oakland, which finished last in the American League in runs last season. His on-base percentage dropped to .316 last season, well below his career average of .334. That’s where a more patient approach could pay off, and that’s another focus with Alonso this season.

Right now, the plan is for the left-handed hitting Alonso to platoon at first with Ryon Healy, who will also see time at DH and third base.

“I think every day I’m coming in with a plan,” Alonso said. “Mentally and physically I feel fine. I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to continue to battle and continue to grind and have solid at-bats.”

CAMP BATTLE: A day after Andrew Triggs looked very sharp, another rotation candidate responded with his best start of the spring. Raul Alcantara gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Brewers, very much keeping his hopes alive for one of Oakland’s two open rotation spots. His outing was easy to overlook on a day the A’s hit four home runs and collected 18 hits total. But it was a timely effort for Alcantara, who is batting Triggs and Jesse Hahn for rotation jobs. Hahn’s next start is Saturday.

“His breaking ball, he struggled throwing it for strikes early and then found it, which is an attribute you want to see,” Melvin said of Alcantara. “It ended up being his best outing for us.”

Melvin said he thinks the battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 starter spots will go down to the wire.

NOTEWORTHY: Lefty Daniel Coulombe, trying to nail down a spot in the bullpen, threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. After surrendering at least one run in each of his first five appearances, Coulombe has held opponents without a run in each of his last two outings (4 1/3 IP).

ODDS AND ENDS: Trevor Plouffe and Max Schrock hit the A’s other home runs along with Alonso’s two shots. Plouffe’s was an opposite-field blast to right. He’s hitting .361. Schrock was borrowed from minor league camp and went deep to right-center. … Ross Detwiler couldn’t shut the door in the ninth, retiring just two of the eight hitters he faced and allowing two walks and three runs. … Second baseman Joey Wendle, sidelined by a sore right shoulder, was scheduled to play catch for the first time in more than a week Thursday. He underwent an MRI a week ago that he said showed no significant damage. … Outfielder Jaff Decker (oblique) did all activity except take full batting practice. He seems to be progressing well and may still have a chance to battle for a roster spot.

Raiders OC Todd Downing: New weapons will 'make me look good'

Raiders OC Todd Downing: New weapons will 'make me look good'

STANFORD – Todd Downing has long been responsible for intently analyzing college quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft. He certainly did so during two seasons as Raiders quarterbacks coach, adding input to personnel department evaluations on young signal callers.

This offseason, he’s using a wide-angle lens. Downing is the Raiders offensive coordinator now, promoted to the position after Bill Musgrave was allowed to leave on an expired contract.

Coaches enter the draft evaluation process relatively late – they have a season to coach, after all – but Downing prides himself on working hard in evaluating talent. Working with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s staff, coaches feel like their voice is being heard.

That’s important to a coordinator especially, who must make a scheme work with talent around him.

“Reggie and his staff have always done a tremendous job of listening to our vision for the offense or the defense,” Downing said Thursday at Stanford’s pro day. “It’s been a joy to work with those guys over the past three years.

“(Head coach Jack Del Rio) really expects us to be accountable for our position group. Now that I’m the coordinator, there’s more of a broad scope when looking at offensive talent in the draft. When you work that hard (evaluating players), I think the scouts know that your opinion is well grounded, and that validates it a little bit.”

Downing is always on the lookout for weapons, especially while making tweaks to the Raiders offense. The Silver and Black found a few, adding tight end Jared Cook, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive lineman Marshal Newhouse and quarterback EJ Manuel.

Quarterback Derek Carr helped him get some. The full-time East Bay resident has been active recruiting free agents, trying to improve an already strong Raiders offense.

“You guys know how passionate he is about this game, and about this team and backing up this franchise,” Downing said. “(His involvement in recruiting) didn’t surprise any of us. He’s pretty hands on when it comes to football. He lives in the area, so he hopped in when we needed it and it paid off.”

Cook and Patterson especially could add dimensions to a well-rounded Raiders attack. Cook has made some big plays in the past, and should be a reliable receiving tight end the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons.

“He has a skill set that will be fun to play with (schematically),” Downing said. “We’re excited to see what he can do, and I know Derek is excited to add him. He has a history of making plays in this league, and that’s something we’re excited to have.”

Patterson’s primarily known as a kick returner – he’s a two-time All Pro on special teams – but the Raiders hope he’ll be active on offense.

“With guys like that, you just find a way to get them the rock and let them do the rest of the work,” Downing said. “They make me look good. I can call a simple play and he takes it the distance and it looks like I designed something special.”