Warriors-Trail Blazers Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- The Golden State Warriors have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since January, preventing them from closing the gap on the Portland Trail Blazers for fifth place in the Western Conference.
Now the Warriors have a chance to tighten that race as they visit a Trail Blazers team missing LaMarcus Aldridge due to injury.
With Klay Thompson expected back, Golden State looks to avoid its longest skid in almost four months while dealing Portland its fifth loss in six games Sunday night.
Following a five-game winning streak, the Warriors (41-26) took a step back at both ends in their last two contests, losing 111-98 at the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday before a 103-94 home defeat against Cleveland on Friday.
Since averaging 107.6 points and allowing 94.6 during their run, they've scored 96.0 per game while giving up 107.0 over the last two.
On the verge of its first three-game losing streak since November, Golden State held a lengthy team meeting Friday after blowing a 16-point lead against the Cavaliers to fall six games behind the first-place Clippers.
"A lot of voices," said guard Stephen Curry, who had 27 points after averaging 13.6 while dealing with a minor quad strain over his previous five contests. "You could tell people care. The fact that a lot of guys talked and voiced their commitment to what we're trying to do is good."
Barring any travel problems, Golden State will have its third-leading scorer back as it attempts to shrink a 2 1/2-game deficit against the fifth-place Blazers (43-23). Thompson missed Friday's game to attend his grandfather's funeral in the Bahamas, snapping a franchise-record streak of 214 consecutive games played to start a career.
Portland, however, will be short-handed after suffering a big blow to its frontcourt when Aldridge fell hard in the third quarter of a 103-90 loss at San Antonio on Wednesday. The All-Star forward, averaging team highs of 23.4 points and 11.1 rebounds, sustained a lower back contusion and will be re-evaluated next week.
Without Aldridge, the Blazers needed their other All-Star to lead the charge as they ended a season-worst four-game losing streak with a 111-103 win at New Orleans on Friday.
Trailing by three points with under five minutes left, Damian Lillard stepped up with a 3-pointer to tie the game before his jumper only seconds later gave Portland the lead for good. He scored 16 of his 27 in the fourth quarter, while Nicolas Batum finished with 22 points and Wesley Matthews had 20.
"I mean, we had lost four games in a row," Lillard said. "Then we finally were able to close a team out in the fourth quarter and come away with the victory. It was a great feeling."
Lillard has averaged 27.2 points while leading the Blazers to a 5-1 record without Aldridge this season. However, he totaled 36 points on 11-of-36 (30.6 percent) shooting while Portland split its two trips to Oakland this season.
The Blazers may have to do a better job containing Golden State's backcourt after Thompson scored 30 on 10-of-13 shooting in Portland's 113-101 win Nov. 23 and Curry had 38 in the Warriors' 103-88 victory Jan. 26.
David Lee also has played well in the post, averaging 21.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in his last four visits to Portland. He scored 20 with 10 boards in a 99-88 victory in the most recent meeting there last April.
The Warriors have won four of the last five meetings overall.
Updated March 15, 2014