The NBA’s best home team will encounter one of its winningest road clubs Friday night when the Golden State Warriors host the Portland Trail Blazers in San Francisco.
This edition of the twice-a-year Damian Lillard homecoming occurs as his Trail Blazers have lost some of their road magic. Portland has lost three in a row on the road, but at 10-10 remains one of only three teams in the NBA with double-digit road wins through Thursday.
This will be the first of four meetings this season between these Western Conference playoff hopefuls. The Warriors have won three straight at home over the Trail Blazers over the past two seasons, each victory coming by at least 10 points.
“We’ve got a tough opponent in Golden State … (they) are unbelievable at home,” Blazers guard Josh Hart said. “So we need to make sure we execute and go there feeling good.”
A product of Oakland High, Lillard has just three wins in 15 regular-season return visits to the San Francisco Bay Area in his career. He has topped 30 points six times in those 15 games.
Lillard scored 34 when Portland lost 120-107 at Denver in its most recent road game last Friday, then made just 1 of 10 3-point shots — but had nine assists — Monday in a 124-113 home triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.
Jerami Grant (32 points, 10 rebounds) and Jusuf Nurkic (28 points, 15 rebounds) led the way against the Hornets in Portland’s last outing four days ago.
Even in the presence of Lillard, the most popular Trail Blazer in San Francisco on Friday figures to be Gary Payton II, even though he will not play. The son of another Oakland prep legend, Payton was a key defensive force in Golden State’s championship run last season before becoming a free agent and signing with the Trail Blazers.
He has yet to make his Portland debut following offseason core-muscle surgery, but he’s returned to practice and could see game action soon. Portland ruled him out for Friday’s game.
Also missing this game is Stephen Curry, who has missed the last seven games with a slightly separated left shoulder.
But Golden State could be getting Andrew Wiggins back from a 12-game absence that began with a strained adductor and has more recently been the result of an illness.
Like Payton, Wiggins has returned to the practice floor this week, yet Warriors coach Steve Kerr declared Wiggins doubtful.
“He needs a couple days of practice. He just got back in the gym (Wednesday),” Kerr said. “We’ll see how he’s feeling. I suppose there’s a chance he could play against Portland, but I would say doubtful.”
Without Curry and Wiggins, the Warriors have opened an eight-game homestand with wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz, getting surprise contributions while improving to 15-2 in San Francisco.
Ty Jerome chipped in with 14 points in the Christmas Day victory over Memphis. Jonathan Kuminga made key plays at both ends of the floor Tuesday in a narrow victory over Charlotte. Patrick Baldwin Jr., a rookie who had totaled just 37 points previously, mostly in blowout losses, provided a spark with 11 in Wednesday’s 112-107 triumph over Utah.
–Field Level Media