Trail Blazers face tall task in road tilt vs. Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — The calendar has flipped, and so, too, have the fortunes of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Or so they hope.

The Trail Blazers, struggling as the calendar year 2016 came to a close, will look for a second straight victory in 2017 when they visit the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Considered an up-and-comer after upsetting the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs last season before battling the Warriors through five tough games in the Western semifinals, the Trail Blazers ranked among the league’s biggest disappointments through December. Portland has lost 11 of 13 to drop to 14-21.

If 14-21 sounds familiar, that’s because it’s exactly where the Trail Blazers stood a year earlier. Portland righted the ship with an 8-5 January en route to a 44-38 final record and a No. 5 playoff seeding.

Portland, now 15-21, hopes a 95-89 win at Minnesota on New Year’s Day propels it in the same direction this season.

The 89 points allowed to the Timberwolves marked the fourth time in the last six games that the Trail Blazers have held an opponent under 100. That happened only 25 times in the first 30 games.

The club has embraced a more aggressive defensive game plan, versatile forward Al-Farouq Aminu insisted in the wake of the Minnesota win.

“The more you win with something, the more comfort level you have with it,” he noted. “If you’re not getting a win, you’re not going to want to do it again, even if it was effective. Now that we’re getting wins when we are doing it just makes you more eager to do it.”

The Trail Blazers surely need to try something new against the Warriors. Golden State has burned Portland for two of its five highest outputs this season in 127-104 and 135-90 thumpings.

The Warriors have attacked the Portland defense from every angle, with Kevin Durant averaging 27.0 points, Stephen Curry burying 10 3-pointers and Draymond Green contributing 10.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists per win.

Golden State (30-5) enters the game with a full head of steam, having won 10 of 11 by averaging 115.7 points per game.

The Warriors’ depth of talent was on full display Monday in their 127-119 home win over Denver. Six players scored in double figures, including Green, who recorded a 15-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound triple-double.

“That’s kind of who we are,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the balanced attack. “A lot of people sharing the ball and sharing the shots. KD (Durant) and Klay (Thompson) with 19 (points), and Steph with 18. They have really figured out how to play together. When to attack and when to defer. It’s great so see.”

The Warriors have opened a five-game homestand with wins over Toronto, Dallas and Denver.

Portland, meanwhile, has been off since Sunday’s win at Minnesota. The Trail Blazers return to Oregon on Thursday night to begin a stretch of four of five at home, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers.