On the eve of the final regular season matchup against Golden State, Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard was asked if there is a player who he thinks is a catalyst to Portland’s chances to beat the Warriors.
“I could name multiple guys … but I automatically think of Mo (Harkless),’’ Lillard said. “Just the impact he can have guarding pretty much (point guard through center) in that game … I just feel like this is the kind of game where Mo can have his hands all over the game.’’
Right on cue, the previously injured Harkless on Thursday went through practice, albeit in limited fashion, and has been upgraded to probable for Friday’s game against Golden State.
Harkless, who had started nine consecutive games before missing the last three with a left knee strain, was not made available to the media after Thursday’s practice.
It seems likely coach Terry Stotts will re-insert Harkless back into his starting small forward position, considering Harkless was in the lineup when the Blazers’ started their eight-game winning streak with a 123-117 win over the Warriors on Feb. 14.
“He’s had some good games against them,’’ Stotts said. “The way they play and the matchups they have, being able to guard multiple positions is important.’’
The Blazers (39-26) have won 14 of their last 15 at Moda Center, and have beaten the last four opponents with winning records to climb to third place in the West. But nobody inside their Tualatin practice facility on Thursday was viewing Friday’s game as a measuring stick.
“I think we are in a good place regardless (of Friday’s outcome), but I think tomorrow is a great opportunity to make a statement of the team we’ve become,’’ Lillard said.
Added McCollum: “It’s a good test, but where are now and where we will be (17) games from now is totally different,’’ CJ McCollum said. “And I’m sure they will be better when the playoffs start as well. So it’s a good test, but I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all, because teams continue to get better.’’
Golden State is in second in the West, entering Thursday one game behind Houston, and will be playing a back-to-back after taking on the Spurs on Thursday in Oakland. The Blazers are one of four teams within 1.5 of each other.
“At this point in the season, it’s not about a measuring stick,’’ Stotts said. “It’s about getting as many wins as possible.’’
Added McCollum: “It’s just another game, honestly. I think that’s how everyone is approaching it. It’s an important game because of the standings and where we are at in the Western Conference. But you see how good everybody is from 3-10 so every game is important. But don’t think we are looking at it like, ‘We are playing the Warriors.’’’