Forty-eight minutes separate the Golden State Warriors from their first postseason berth in six years. What happens in those 48 minutes could spell the difference between a sixth seed and a seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Warriors travel to Portland for their last regular season game of the year Wednesday. They’ll face a luckless Trail Blazers’ team that has had little to celebrate beyond the ascendant performance of likely Rookie of the Year (and Oakland native) Damian Lillard, who has averaged 19 points per game and topped Stephen Curry’s rookie record for most made threes in a season (183, versus Curry’s 166), according to NBA.com.
Of course, Curry will be taking his own shot at the record books tonight. Golden State’s point guard is two buckets away from topping Ray Allen’s single-season record for most made threes in a season (269) after going 7-for-13 from beyond the arc in a 35 point effort that muscled the Warriors to a rare 116-106 win over the San Antonio Spurs Monday night.
“It’s a challenge, man,” Curry told ESPN. “You just want to be playing your best basketball at that time and make the right plays, and it will be even more rewarding if you’re successful, if that’s the case. I’m up for it. The team’s up for it. And this is why you play the game — to step up big in big moments, in big games that mean more than just you. It’s a great opportunity.”
If Curry’s shots do fall, the Warriors will have a good chance of securing that sixth seed, which ensures them a first round matchup against either the Los Angeles Clippers — who they are 3-1 against this season — or the Denver Nuggets, who have been hobbled by injuries to forward Danilo Gallinari and point guard Ty Lawson.
The Houston Rockets are one game back of the Warriors in the standings, but if Golden State were to lose and Houston were to win in tonight’s matchups, Houston’s 3-1 record against the Warriors would assure them higher seeding.
Curry and Klay Thompson will likely handle the bulk of the scoring in tonight’s game, as the Portland backcourt has hemorrhaged points all season long. All Star David Lee (love saying that) will undoubtedly tack on his standard double-double against a Blazers front court that is missing LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Victor Claver.
Andrew Bogut will sit out tonight’s game with a bone bruise. Draymond Green is questionable with a knee injury.
UPDATE: Bogut and Aldridge have opted to start in tonight’s game.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (46-35) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (33-48)
WHEN: 7:30 PM PST, League Pass
AT STAKE: The 3-point record, the Western Conference sixth seed
PLAYER TO WATCH: If you’ve gotten this far, you know it’s Stephen Curry.
PREDICTION: Warriors top the Blazers, 115-101