Prediction: Warriors over Blazers in 5, regardless of Nurkic's status

Prediction: Warriors over Blazers in 5, regardless of Nurkic's status

Programming note: Watch "Warriors Playoff Central" on Sunday morning at 11:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area.

OAKLAND -- In the fourth game of the regular season, with Kevin Durant still finding his way among his new teammates, the Warriors went up to Portland and smoked the Trail Blazers by 23.

The second meeting was worse for Portland, which came into Oracle Arena on Dec. 17 and took the blunt end of a 135-90 rout. Though the next two games were closer, Warriors by eight in Oakland on Jan. 4 and by two in Portland on Jan. 29, the result was a four-game season sweep, with the Warriors averaging 125 points.

Dismiss those numbers. They’ll mean nothing when the teams meet Sunday at Oracle Arena for Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

The Warriors haven’t changed much, except they’ve improved.

The Blazers are considerably different, for the better.

Here is our preview of the best-of-seven series:


POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry (25.3 points per game, 6.6 assists per game) vs. Damian Lillard (27.0 ppg, 5.9 apg): Though these two fabulous “shooting” point guards won’t always be assigned to each other, each is the key to his team’s fortunes. Both have been tremendous on offense over the final month, and both are prone to spells of indifferent defense. For the Blazers to have a chance to extend this series, much less win it, Lillard has to have a better series that Curry. Curry, however, remains the best in the league at using its most demoralizing offensive weapon -- the deep 3. Edge: Curry, but it’s close.

SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson (22.3 ppg) vs. CJ McCollum (23.0 ppg): These are the two supporting scorers, though Thompson will spend much more time defending Lillard. Thompson’s length -- he’s four inches taller than either of the Portland guards -- gives him an advantage at both ends. He’s able to harass Lillard or McCollum while also being able to easily shoot over either. Though Thompson rarely resorts to post-up offense, he also has a clear advantage there. Edge: Thompson.

SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant (25.1 ppg, 8.3 rebounds per game, 4.8 apg) vs. Maurice Harkless (10.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg): Durant is one-time MVP, an eight-time All-Star and coming off the most efficient season of his 10-year career. Harkless may be OK as a rotation player on a good team, but he can’t begin to dream of comparing to Durant. Edge: Durant by a wide margin.

POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green (10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg) vs. Al-Farouq Aminu (8.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg): Aminu is a good defender; Green is a great defender who pulls more rebounds, blocks more shots and led the league in steals. Aminu is a respectable offensive player; Green is a better scorer and rang up four times more assists. Edge: Green.

CENTER: Zaza Pachulia (6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) vs. Jusuf Nurkic (15.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg): Pachulia has been as advertised, a big man whose workmanlike approach makes him exceedingly helpful on a team of stars. Nurkic is a game-changer. After coming over from Denver via trade, the 7-footer was essential to Portland’s late-season rally to the playoffs. The only question is his status. Coping with a slight fracture in his right leg, he began participating in light individual drills on Wednesday. He’ll be reevaluated Friday and his status for Game 1 is uncertain. Edge: Nurkic, pending availability.

SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala (vs. Allen Crabbe (10.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg). Iguodala may be the league’s best off-the-bench defender, Crabbe one of the most dangerous scorers among reserves. Each does a solid job of filling his team’s needs, as Iguodala spreads his game all over the stat sheet while Crabbe makes his impact almost entirely by scoring. Edge: Iguodala, for his two-way versatility.

BENCHES: After Iguodala, the Warriors turn to Shaun Livingston, David West, JaVale McGee, Ian Clark and James Michael McAdoo -- with Matt Barnes availability still uncertain. Behind Crabbe, the Blazers summon Evan Turner, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and Shabazz Napier. The Warriors’ bench ranks second in net rating, while Portland is 16th. The Warriors rank 21st in bench scoring (32.8) and the Blazers are 27th (30.5). Edge: Warriors.

COACHING: Steve Kerr has been a terrific head coach, boasting the best record ever through three seasons. He also may have, with Ron Adams and Mike Brown leading the way, the strongest staff in the league. The Warriors consistently express a great deal of respect for Terry Stotts and his staff in Portland. In the wake of Luke Walton’s departure last spring, Kerr briefly expressed interest in Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts before hiring Mike Brown. Edge: Warriors.

ORACLE VS. MODA: Two of the best environments in the league. The Warriors were 36-5 at home this season -- 114-9 over the past three seasons. They believe they have the best homecourt advantage in the NBA, and they likely do. The Blazers were 25-16 at Moda Center. Then there is this: the Warriors have won 15 of the last 18 games against the Blazers, 19 of 24 including last postseason. Edge: Oracle.

PREDICTION: Warriors in 5, regardless of how many games Nurkic plays.

What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'


What if they don't win the title? Joe Lacob says Warriors 'looking at different options'

The Warriors were the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

That is probably going to change this season, as they trail the Rockets by three games (although it's really four because Houston has the tiebreaker) with 12 games to play (and only lead the Raptors by one game).

What does owner Joe Lacob think about his team right now?

“We’ve had our best team we’ve ever had this year,” Lacob recently told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group (read the full story here). “We have to go prove it on the court, but we have enough to win it.

"It doesn’t mean we will, but we are certainly set up to have the opportunity potentially to do that. That’s about all you can ask.”

Things can change in an instant and Lacob understands that.

That's why he's constantly discussing scenarios with Warriors GM Bob Myers and the rest of Golden State's decision-makers.

“We’ll build around that core until we decide maybe we shouldn’t," Lacob told BANG. "But right now it feels pretty good. These guys are all performing at a great level. We love them as part of our organization.

"I don’t really see doing anything major. But you never really know. We have to evaluate when the season is over. It’s very hard when you’re in the middle of it all to see it objectively.”

What happens if the Warriors don't win the championship this year?

We will leave you with this quote Lacob gave BANG.

“Maybe we will emphasize continuity. Or maybe we will make a big move. We’re looking at different options, given different things playing out in different ways.

"I think you should always be doing that.”

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge


Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge

In 43 seasons battling the Spurs, only once have the Warriors swept a season series, a feat they will accomplish again with a victory Monday night in San Antonio.

Winning at AT&T Center will be a tough task for the depleted Warriors (53-17), who for the third consecutive game will take the floor with three of their four All-Stars -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson -- unavailable. Guard Pat McCaw, however, will be available for the first time in five weeks.

After the Spurs (40-30) lost nine of 11 games over a 30-day span and seemed to be fading from the playoff race, they’ve posted three straight wins and are very much in the race, despite the continued absence of star forward Kawhi Leonard.


Spurs by 7


Draymond Green & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is a load for any defender and has carried the Spurs this season. Expect the Warriors to stick to their routine when facing a single pivotal player and send a variety of defenders. Green is sure to be one of them. Others likely to take turns include Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West and maybe even Kevon Looney. The Warriors will consider it success if they can keep Aldridge under 30 points.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle tweak), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) and listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3. Spurs: 5-5.


James Capers (crew chief), Bennie Adams, Karl Lane


The Warriors won the first three of four meetings this season: 112-92 on Nov. 2 in San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 at Oakland. They were 1-2 against San Antonio last season and are 9-7 against the Spurs in the Steve Kerr era.


COOK’S ROLL: Two-way PG Quinn Cook was terrific in the last two games, scoring a combined 53 points on 21-of-30 shooting. That was against lottery teams. The Spurs traditionally make life tough for guards and will pose a much bigger challenge. If Cook stays hot under this pressure, the Warriors will be beyond ecstatic.

MCCAW RETURNS: The return of McCaw, out since Feb. 12 with a L wrist fracture, gives the Warriors a fourth guard and some welcome flexibility. Cook played 80 minutes in the recent back-to-back set, and Nick Young played 78. McCaw will be on a minutes restriction (less than 20) but can perform on or off the ball.

THE BENCH GAME: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has virtually trademarked liberal usage of reserves; only San Antonio has had eight players score in double figures in three different games this season, and 13 different Spurs average at least 10 ppg. Their depth will be a problem for these very thin Warriors.