Trail Blazers-Warriors Preview
The Golden State Warriors blew an opportunity in their last game to distance themselves from teams battling for playoff seeding in the Western Conference - despite facing a club far removed from postseason contention.
They'll hope to not make the same mistake again on Saturday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers, who appear to have all but removed themselves from the race with three consecutive losses.
The Warriors (41-32) currently own the sixth seed in the West by 1 1/2 games over Houston, but failed to increase that margin with Wednesday's 105-98 loss to Sacramento, now 27-46.
Golden State had won six of eight before the disappointing result against a team with much less to play for.
"There's no excuse for it, especially at this point in the season," Andrew Bogut said. "No disrespect to Sacramento, but we're playing for more than April 17."
The Warriors will hope to get their backcourt on track after Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggled against the Kings, going 6 of 31 from the floor.
As good as Curry has been - seventh in the league in scoring with 22.4 points per game and third in 3-point shooting at 45.2 percent - Thompson's performances have more accurately predicted Golden State's success this season.
Thompson is averaging 13.9 points on 37.3 percent shooting - including a 33.2 percent mark from beyond the arc - in the team's 32 losses. In 41 wins, he's scoring 18.2 per game while shooting 44.9 percent and 44.3 percent from 3-point range.
He scored just four points on 1-of-13 shooting on Wednesday and is 24 of 70 (34.3 percent) over his last five games.
"One thing with Klay, he was holding his head down a little bit," coach Mark Jackson told the league's official website. "He's a shooter. Those are shots I'll take and I don't care what anybody says. That was not the reason we lost this game."
For Portland (33-39), leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (21.0 ppg) won't travel with the team after spraining his right ankle on Wednesday. He was unavailable in Friday's home game against Utah, and it proved costly in a 105-95 loss, the Blazers' third straight, pushing them 3 1/2 games behind the Lakers for the conference's final playoff spot.
Meyers Leonard made the third start of his rookie season, finishing with 12 points in place of Aldridge.
"We're still playing to make the playoffs," said J.J. Hickson, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds Friday. "I know our window is definitely smaller at this point, but as long as we've got a chance, we're going to keep playing hard and we're going to play with integrity."
Rookie sensation Damian Lillard will try to follow up a spectacular performance in his hometown of Oakland in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 11, when he scored a season-high 37 points, though the Warriors managed a 103-97 victory.
Aldridge's absence could also be a major factor on the defensive end for Portland. The Blazers already struggle to stop teams inside, allowing a league-worst 46.8 points in the paint per game, while Golden State is coming off a season-high 68 points in the paint against Sacramento.
David Lee had 20 points and 10 rebounds, his league-leading 27th game with at least those numbers.