The Golden State Warriors (44-13) reeled off their third blowout win in a row with a 129-83 spanking of the Phoenix Suns. The game was so in the bag that head coach Steve Kerr picked this particular game to conduct his controversial experiment of letting his players handle the coaching duties. Despite the criticism Kerr has received with his move, it’s hard to argue with the results.
Stephen Curry cruised to an easy 22 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, while Kevin Durant had 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting with seven boards and six assists. With Draymond Green out, Omri Casspi got the start and had a confidence-boosting double-double with 19 points and ten rebounds. Even Nick Young got into the act with 16 points off the bench.
The Warriors will look to enter the All-Star break on a high against the Portland Trail Blazers (31-26), who saw their nine-game home winning streak snapped in surprising fashion by the red-hot Utah Jazz. Damian Lillard did all he could as he followed up his 50-point effort against the Kings with 39 more against the Jazz. Backcourt mate CJ McCollum added 22 points on 22 shots.
But as has been the case, their supporting cast apart from their backcourt was nowhere to be seen. Jusuf Nurkic was a no-show with zero points in 14 minutes. He reportedly picked up injuries during the second half and is questionable to feature against the Warriors.
Three keys to the game
Warriors’ mindset – Kerr confessed that his little coaching experiment was meant to help inject a bit more energy to his team, which had been floundering of late. Based on how they handled their business against Phoenix, it’s safe to say it worked to a certain extent. That may just be that extra little jolt the Warriors needed to go to the All-Star break on a high.
Blazers’ supporting cast – Lillard is red-hot right now and almost always plays well against the Warriors. The problem is the other players on his team. He just can’t seem to get reliable production out of his supporting cast on a night-to-night basis. That will likely get even worse if Nurkic is unable to play. As great as Lillard is playing at the moment, it’ll obviously be close to impossible for him to beat the champs by himself.
Warriors bench – The bench has been getting a lot of playing time recently given all the blowout wins the Warriors have been enjoying. David West, in particular, has been terrific on both ends of the floor. But Young and Casspi have also come up with big games that should help improve their confidence. If the Warriors can get those guys going off their bench, they will be that much more difficult to stop.
Matchup to watch
Stephen Curry vs Damian Lillard – If the Blazers stand any chance of winning, Lillard will likely need to come up with another big game. Opposing point guards have not found that all too difficult against the Warriors recently. However, Curry can still take a game over by himself, which makes for a fascinating duel against Lillard.
Warriors projected starting lineup
PG – Stephen Curry | SG – Klay Thompson | SF – Kevin Durant | PF – Draymond Green | C – Zaza Pachulia
Blazers projected starting lineup
PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Maurice Harkless | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic
None of the Warriors stars have stood out fantasy-wise in recent games. That’s in part because they haven’t had to play as many minutes with all the blowout wins. But if you’re looking for a Warrior who has been sneaky good value, take a look at West. The veteran is averaging 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steal in just 15.9 minutes over his last four games. He had ten points and four blocks in his first meeting with the Blazers.
As for the Blazers, Lillard is the obvious candidate to target in fantasy. He’s scored 89 points over his last two games and lit up the Warriors for 39 points in their first meeting this season. But apart from him and McCollum, it’s tough to trust anyone else on the roster to deliver.
Kerr's little stunt likely does the trick to give the Warriors that extra bit of juice they need to get to the break on a high. They probably maintain the intensity they've shown in their previous three wins, which have come by 18, 17, and 46 points. The Blazers are already behind the eight ball, and if Nurkic misses out, they likely won't have enough offense to come anywhere close to covering the 6.5-point spread.
The Warriors take care of business as they blow the Blazers out, 117-102.
This game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, NBC Sports Northwest and NBC Sports Bay Area. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.