The Golden State Warriors are outscoring opponents by 12.6 points per game this season, a figure that includes their six losses. They beat the Lakers by 43, the Pacers by 36, and the Suns by 29. But just over two weeks ago Golden State won its most lopsided game of the season when the Portland Trail Blazers came to town and lost by 45 (135-90). Now, before at least getting a chance to take the Warriors on in Portland, the Blazers are back at Oracle tonight.
It gets worse. Portland had its best player in that mid-December game but looks like it will be without Damian Lillard for the fifth straight game tonight. CJ McCollum has taken on an even bigger scoring role with Lillard recovering from an ankle injury. The third year pro scored a career-high 43 points in Minnesota two days ago and has the Blazers 2-2 in the last four games they’ve played without Lillard.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as looking at a game played in the past with a player and then assuming that team will be even worse off without that guy in the next one, especially if that guy is high volume and struggled. Had Lillard been bad in that 45-point loss, his absence would be harder to read tonight. But Lillard was just about the only Blazer who scored efficiently, putting up 20 on better than 50 percent shooting. Now not only will Portland be without those numbers, but everything becomes easier for the Warriors on defense. There really isn’t much to like about Portland tonight.
The number is 16 tonight, which is in that tricky range with the Warriors this season. Golden State finds itself up comfortable so often in the second half on most nights that these big numbers become a gamble in the fourth quarter. Instead, I’m going to play the first half line, where we can get the Warriors as nine-point favorites. I like this angle because the number is lower and because we’ll get a better representation of Golden State, albeit for only 24 minutes. The Warriors know that tonight should be a blowout and that if they come out hard in the first half and build a big lead, they may not have to play in the second.
Free Pick: Warriors First Half -9