• Observations and analysis from the Portland Trail Blazers’ 115-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Moda Center on Saturday night.

    • This outcome, for many reasons, certainly wasn’t hard to see coming. A Blazers victory at home less than 48 hours after they beat the defending champions in Oakland would have been shocking. Golden State came into this contest at a measly .500 over its past eight games, all of which came with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in the lineup. The Warriors have faced almost no sustained adversity en route to winning three of the past four Larry O’Brien trophies, and a second consecutive loss to a beatable foe like Portland would have changed that. They knew they needed a win on Saturday to avoid the inevitable pitfalls associated with even further media scrutiny, and delivered accordingly, with Thompson, Curry, and Durant combining for 82 points on just 55 shots. Far more surprising than a Blazers loss was how the home team refused to let down when circumstances of time and score – including Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, by the way – continued suggesting it would do just that. Portland deserves credit for keeping this game competitive until (nearly) the final whistle, and Golden State deserves more for putting together one of its most complete games of the season. The Blazers, make no mistake, need absolutely every win they can get in a Western Conference where 14 teams are fighting for eight playoff spots. But if a veteran team approaching the precipice of roster turnover can glean moral victories from a loss, this game might exist as the rare example.

     

    • Lillard finished with 40 points and five assists on 14-of-23 from the field, 6-of-13 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line – impressive numbers, to be sure, but not necessarily the eye-popping type that come in what could be his best performance of the season. He was brilliant on Saturday night, for the most part rendering Thompson’s dogged individual defense moot with contested 3-pointers, step-back jumpers, and acrobatic finishes in traffic. Even more impressive than Lillard’s scoring exploits, though, was how he took advantage of Golden State’s pressure by getting his teammates open looks. He found Jusuf Nurkic on the roll with pinpoint bounce passes again and again after the Warriors trapped him high up the floor, and routinely hit Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu with slick dump-offs down low following dribble penetration. Lillard made Curry work for his points, too, chasing him off the arc and maintaining active hands to prevent backdoor opportunities when top-blocking. In a game featuring two MVPs, a legitimate two-way star, and one of the most versatile impact defenders in league history, Lillard stood a tier above. Nurkic, unfortunately, was the only other player for Portland who played well offensively. He was decisive and aggressive as a post scorer, making his moves with equal parts quickness and power, while also properly sussing out the floor when double-teams came from the baseline. He also had multiple dunks, including a right-handed hammer that came after a spin on the block. Nurkic was the biggest reason Golden State shot below 50 percent from the restricted area, too, keeping his head on a swivel and moving on the flight of the ball as the last line of defense in the halfcourt. Terry Stotts and company must be asking themselves why they can’t get Nurkic to play with the same level of confidence, engagement, and physicality he brings to the table against the Warriors on a nightly basis. Matchups have something to do with that, obviously, but attitude does, too. Golden State can be brash and arrogant, and Nurkic always relishes the opportunity to return the favor.

     

    • Aminu and Harkless both acquitted themselves well at times during Saturday’s game. The latter, especially, regularly found a way to get behind the Warriors’ defense, knifing in from the perimeter to provide Lillard and C.J. McCollum with a nearby release valve when they drew extra help through penetration. Harkless also made a few splash plays on both ends of the floor that showed off his combination of length, speed, and quick-twitch athleticism. Any concerns that complications gleaned from summer knee surgery would bleed into the meat of the 2018-19 season are over. Still, it was hard to watch this game and come away with any other conclusion that both Harkless and Aminu were closer to liabilities against Golden State than workable assets. Neither player was paid real attention when stationed beyond the arc away from the ball, allowing the Warriors to clog driving and passing lanes, and it’s not like they made up for that rippling deficiency by eating up court space off the dribble. Six three-point attempts, one make, and four trips to the line just isn’t enough production from a pair of starting wings against a great team, even if it’s supplemented by solid individual and team defense. Is that necessarily the fault of Harkless and Aminu? Not really. The deficiencies in their games that Golden State exploited are hardly new; the entire league knows who these guys are by now. But the fact remains that Portland needs to be at or near its best to beat the Warriors, and neither Harkless nor Aminu got there on Saturday night.

     

    • Blazers not named Lillard and Nurkic: 44 points, 17-of-54 FGs, 3-of-18 3PTs, six assists. Needless to say, that’s just not close to enough from a team’s supporting cast, especially considering C.J. McCollum’s line is included in that total. Not a single bench player made his mark against Golden State, either. Zach Collins, clearly bothered by the Warriors’ activity in the paint, went scoreless on three shots and grabbed one rebound in six minutes of play. Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard each registered a -17 plus-minus. Seth Curry hit one triple, but was picked on defensively and didn’t contribute any additional statistic to the box score other than a foul while his brother was shooting a three. Portland, almost solely due to the efforts of Lillard and Nurkic, had a puncher’s chance to win this game. All it might have taken for the Blazers to come away victorious was one or two more players making a sustained positive impact. Shame.

     

    • The officiating was notable for all the wrong reasons in this game. Charge-block calls, including two involving Green, were prompted by an inconsistent whistle all night long. In a game featuring world-class shot-makers on both sides, it often seemed like shooters weren’t being given benefit of the doubt – until they suddenly and randomly were. Andre Iguodala was ejected for tossing the ball high above the basket, into the stands, seconds after the halftime whistle. Nurkic was assessed a technical for briefly standing over Green, and the latter received his own technical for complaining to the officials only after he was given a combined minutes worth of prior leeway. Even Lillard and Stotts got in on the act late, both being called for technical fouls after an iffy call late in the game.

     

Fantasy News

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum is officially listed as questionable for Thursday's game against the Warriors as he continues to deal with a strained right groin.

    Head coach Brad Stevens told the media earlier in the day that Tatum should return by Saturday. However, it is still possible that he returns for Thursday's game against the Warriors with the questionable tag. If Tatum does sit out for the fourth consecutive time, expect the main starters to play even more minutes while Grant Williams could see additional minutes off the bench.

    Source: Chris Forsberg on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    Enes Kanter will not play in Thursday's game against the Warriors as he continues to nurse a bruised right hip.

    Kanter will miss his fourth consecutive game on Thursday. Daniel Theis should continue to see additional opportunity and should be rostered at across all fantasy formats. Kanter's next opportunity to play will come Saturday vs. the Sixers.

    Source: Chris Forsberg on Twitter

  • Myles Turner
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner (illness) will be a game-time decision ahead of Wednesday's game.

    After Turner was excused from practice on Tuesday, he is officially listed as questionable. Goga Bitadze and Domantas Sabonis would fill in if he's unavailable.

    Source: Scott Agness on Twitter

  • Malcolm Brogdon
    PG, Indiana Pacers

    Malcolm Brogdon (concussion) is listed as questionable and is a game-time decision ahead of Wednesday's game.

    Brogdon has been out for a week but seems to be approaching a return. If he can't face the Bulls, at least the Pacers are getting Victor Oladipo back. Aaron Holiday will also be in the mix for more minutes.

    Source: Scott Agness on Twitter

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said that Jayson Tatum (right groin strain) should return by Saturday.

    The Celtics play on Saturday, but Stevens also left the door open for a Thursday return if all goes well. Tatum has missed a week of action after last playing on January 22. He has averaged 21.5 points and 6.9 rebounds this season.

    Source: Brian Robb on Twitter

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Victor Oladipo (right knee rehab) is probable for Wednesday's game against the Bulls.

    After missing about a year of action, Oladipo is ready to go. He will be eased into action, but Jeremy Lamb should eventually lose his starting spot.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
    SG, Brooklyn Nets

    Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (illness) is available for Wednesday's game against the Pistons.

    Luwawu-Cabarrot doesn't get much playing time, but this is confirmation that he'll be an option for the Nets.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Jae Crowder
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jae Crowder (right knee soreness) is not on the injury report ahead of Wednesday's game.

    Crowder has missed two straight games with the knee ailment but seems ready to return. Kyle Anderson is likely to see a lesser role against the Knicks.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • De'Anthony Melton
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    De'Anthony Melton (sore left hand) will not be available for Wednesday's game.

    Melton was a late scratch on Tuesday and apparently isn't ready to return. Tyus Jones should see some more opportunities in his stead.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Mike Scott
    PF, Philadelphia Sixers

    Mike Scott (right knee soreness) is questionable for Thurday's contest.

    With Horford also questionable, Kyle O'Quinn may see more minutes than usual against the Hawks. Scott doesn't carry much fantasy value in the first place.

    Source: Mark Narducci on Twitter