The current iteration of the Portland Trail Blazers have never won in ORACLE Arena. Nate McMillan, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge: none have won as Trail Blazers at Golden State. Only Joel Przybilla and Travis Outlaw were on Portland’s roster the last time the Blazers beat Golden State 78-75 at ORACLE on November 3, 2004, though neither played. That was the season opener, by the way.
Why so much trouble at ORACLE? Who knows? Could be that the home team gets the boost when teams that play wildly different styles, as the Warriors and Trail Blazers do.
Looking at their statistics this season, it’s hard to imagine two teams more dissimilar. Trail Blazers allow the fewest points per game in the NBA (87.5), Warriors allow the most (113.3). Trail Blazers opponents take the fewest number of shots per game (32.2), Warriors opponents take the most (42.6). Warriors tally more steals per game than anyone in the league (9.55), while the Trail Blazers rank 25th (6.23). Basically Portland and Golden State ends up on opposite ends of any pace-dependant statistic.
None of this should matter tonight. The Trail Blazers have more talent and better chemistry. The Warriors are playing their first home game after 1-4 Eastern Conference road swing, which should help tilt the scale in Portland’s direction. The Warriors don’t really have the size to make the Trail Blazers pay for playing a three-guard lineup, though someone else besides Brandon Roy is going to have to take a turn getting run into my Corey Maggette. Ronni Turiaf is day-to-day, CJ Watson has the swine flu, Raja Bell may or may not have season-ending wrist surgery, Kelenna Azubuike is out for the season after tearing his patella tendon and Andris Biendrins is battling some sort of back/groin injury that has kept him out of all but four games this season, so Don Nelson will likely have only eight players available. On paper, this should be a win. An easy win even.
But there seems to be no such thing as an easy win Trail Blazers win in Oakland, at least not recently. If the Blazers are to get their first win in the Bay since 2004, they’ll have to take to heart the directive Coach McMillan gave them after the near-loss to the Pistons on Wednesday: don’t play with the game.
Another win on the road is there for the taking, but not if the Trail Blazers play with the game. They have to approach the Warriors like they’re the best team in the league, the only team. If the Blazers jump out to a big lead, they need to keep the pressure on until the final whistle. Finish out quarters strong, especially the fourth. It’s not exactly calm waters in the Golden State locker room, so don’t give them anything to get excited about. Make it about business, get back to Portland and get ready for a homestand with four winnable games.