Fast Forward: Banged-up Blazers still a tough test for Warriors

Fast Forward: Banged-up Blazers still a tough test for Warriors
March 16, 2014, 1:15 pm
They haven't been playing as well as they wanted the last month, but it will be important for us to start off the game strong and be physical as best we can.
Stephen Curry on the Trail Blazers

KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Slay the trey. The Blazers rely on the 3-pointer; no team shoots or makes more.
2) Bring the energy. Portland thrives on the “juice” of its home crowd.
3) Attack the paint. Injuries have thinned the Blazers up front, so it only makes sense to pound the ball inside at every opportunity.

Programming note: Trail Blazers-Warriors coverage tips off Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

As the Warriors again find themselves in regroup mode, sifting through the rubble of recent defeats, one acceptable and the other abysmal, they get assistance from the gods of fate.

They get the Trail Blazers without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and sixth man Mo Williams.

[RELATED: Aldridge, Williams out for Blazers vs. Warriors]

That guarantees nothing, of course, but it surely opens the door to victory Sunday night at Moda Center.

“He's their go-to guy on the block,” coach Mark Jackson said of Aldridge, who is out with a back injury. “So it certainly changes things.”

It does more than that. It swings the game in favor of the Warriors (41-26), who are coming off consecutive losses – Wednesday (at Clippers) and Friday (to the Cavaliers at home) – for the first time in seven weeks.

Portland was the surprise team of the league through the first three months, racing to a 33-11 record through the first 44 games. With a tougher schedule and injuries taking a toll, the Blazers are 12-14 since Jan. 25 – and losers of four of their last five.

The Aldridge injury, sustained last Wednesday in San Antonio, forces the Blazers (43-23) to put a heavier burden on All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, shooting guard Wes Matthews and small forward Nic Batum.

“With Damian and Wes and Batum, they're a strong 1-2-3 punch,” Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said. “And they've got some guys off the bench as well that can come in and play well. They haven't been playing as well as they wanted the last month, but it will be important for us to start off the game strong and be physical as best we can.”

This is yet another game with implications on the Western Conference playoffs race, as Portland currently holds the No. 5 seed, 21/2 games ahead of the Warriors, currently at No. 6. The Blazers also have a slightly better conference record.

[RELATED: NBA standings]

For the Warriors, though, it's about trying to regain the mojo of the first three weeks after the All-Star break, when they went 10-2.

“It's important for us to get back on track and make sure we stop the bleeding right away,” Jackson said.

“We need wins,” Curry added. “I'm pretty sure they're pretty secure in their playoff position; I don't think they're going to fall out of the playoff race. But this win is very important for us.”

ROSTER NOTE: G Klay Thompson is expected to rejoin the team Sunday afternoon.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Curry vs. Lillard. Despite Curry's reputation as a 3-point marksman, Lillard shoots it almost as often and nearly as well. The difference is Curry is a slightly better defender and is a better at creating shots for his teammates.

Andrew Bogut vs. Robin Lopez. Lopez is not immensely skilled on offense but plays with high energy. Bogut's job will be to keep the Stanford product off the glass and prevent him from getting cheap buckets near the rim.

Klay Thompson vs. Wes Matthews. Assuming Thompson is back, he'll deal with Matthews, who runs the court well and loves to launch the three. These two are a lot a like, except Thompson is the slightly better defender.

INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) is out.

For the Blazers, F LaMarcus Aldridge (low back contusion), G Mo Williams (right hip strain) and C Joel Freeland (right knee sprain) are out.

LAST 10: Warriors 6-4, Blazers 5-5.

SERIES HISTORY: The teams split two games, both in Oakland, earlier this season. The Warriors swept the Blazers last season (4-0) for only the second time since 2005-06 but have won six of the last eight season series.