The Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors have an opportunity to get well acquainted when they meet for the first of three times in 18 days Wednesday night in San Francisco.
The West Coast rivals were scheduled to duel just three times this season, including just once in San Francisco. But the inaugural NBA in-season tournament caused regular-season schedule changes this week, with each of the teams eliminated in the group phase required to take on games Wednesday and Friday.
The Warriors have dominated the Trail Blazers in recent years, winning six of seven over the past two seasons and five in a row at home over the past three seasons. The home wins have come by an average of 12.8 points.
The last time the clubs met, the Warriors put up 55 points in the first quarter of a 157-101 shellacking in Portland last April. The Trail Blazers were without Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant at the time.
All three could be missing again in the rematch eight months later. Lillard has been dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks; Simons suffered ligament damage in his right thumb in the preseason and has yet to play this year; and Grant has entered concussion protocol after getting hit in the head Saturday in a game against the Utah Jazz.
Simons and Grant could be back by Friday, but they are considered questionable at best for the trip to Golden State.
Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups hasn’t given up hope of seeing Simons in action in San Francisco after watching him practice this week.
“Stuff like that, the proper protocol is what I have to follow,” he said. “His conditioning looks pretty good. I feel good about it. But we’ll see.”
Portland lost 118-113 in overtime to the Jazz, narrowly missing going 3-1 on a trip to Milwaukee, Indiana, Cleveland and Utah. Grant had 34 points in a 114-110 win over the Pacers before Shaedon Sharpe put up a 29-point, 10-rebound double-double in a 103-95 shocker over the Cavaliers.
The Warriors can expect to see Malcolm Brogdon for the first time with the Trail Blazers.
Brogdon was acquired when Portland dealt Jrue Holiday, picked up in the Lillard trade, to Boston in the offseason. He has settled into his new home nicely, scoring at least 18 points 11 times already after having done so a total of 24 times for the Celtics last year.
The Warriors have fallen to the bottom of the Pacific Division but have played some of their best ball of the season in the past four games. They’d be 4-0 over that stretch if not for late heroics by the Sacramento Kings’ Malik Monk in a 124-123 win and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul George in a 113-112 triumph in Golden State’s most recent game Saturday.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr is encouraged by the recent play of two veterans who struggled in the early going – Andrew Wiggins, who had 29 points in the Sacramento game, and Klay Thompson, who is averaging 19.5 points in his past six outings.
“This season is about winning a championship,” Kerr said. “That means … I’m going to lean into our starters, I’m going to lean into our key guys, and I’m going to give them all the space they need to find their rhythm.”
The Warriors hope to get Wiggins back for Portland. He has missed Golden State’s past two games after closing his car door on his right index finger.