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Warriors vs. Trail Blazers Preview, Spread


Friday night’s matchup between the Golden State Warriors and visiting Portland Trail Blazers will be a test for two upstart teams trying to make a push for playoff recognition.

The Warriors (22-12) carry a heavyweight advantage as the 7.5-point favorites at home, but losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies have them questioning their recent defensive output. In those two games, Golden State allowed an ugly 48.9 percent field-goal shooting, not good for a team chasing a top-4 bid in the Western Conference playoff race.

“[We played] two teams who are right there in front of us in the standings who we understand have been playing great basketball just like we have,” said Stephen Curry, who leads the team with 20.2 points per contest. “There is no need to panic. … We jus thave to keep grinding and play 48 minutes.”

Not having big man Andrew Bogut is starting to rear its ugly head against such elite teams. In fact, the Warriors conceded an average of 40.8 points in the paint in both games. The mark drops their season record to 5-10 when yielding at least 41 points in the box (17-2 when fewer than 41).

Life won’t get much easier with the Blazers (20-15) coming into town. Portland has compiled a winning streak that spans four games long, the best of their young season. Their biggest leap forward came against reigning NBA champion Miami Heat on Thursday, notching a 92-90 upset on their home floor.

With the win, the young nucleus of Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are brimming with confidence. Moreover, their youngest superstar, rookie Damian Lillard, has posted a sensational season thus far, leading all first-year pros in scoring (18.0 ppg) and assists (6.5). His play even led Miami’s LeBron James to tab Lillard as the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award.

“I think he’s the Rookie of the Year,” James said of Lillard. “He’s exceeded all expectations and more. I think we will become great.”

Portland will still have its work cut out for them against Golden State’s backcourt. Curry and second-year standout Klay Thompson have been lighting up the scoreboards this season from long range. The two rank as NBA’s second and third-best NBA shooters from the 3-point arc, respectively. And their getting hotter. Over the last nine games, Curry has posted a staggering 52 percent from the arc while Thompson is not too far behind, tallying a 48 percent mark from distance.

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