The Warriors returned to the Oracle Arena fresh from a six-game winning run on their recent road trip. In doing so, Golden State became the 11th team in NBA history to finish with a 100 per cent record from six-game run on the road. Having won at LA Lakers, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, New Orleans, Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons, Steve Kerr’s side welcomed the Portland Blazers to the Bay Area on Monday night. The Blazers were looking to end a four-game losing run having made a promising start to the 2017-18 season. Portland capitalised on a sloppy start but Kevin Durant helped the Warriors to take control in the latter stages of the first quarter and the second quarter to secured a 60-47 lead. The Warriors have been sluggish in the opening 24 minutes in some of their games at The Oracle this season. But Golden State’s commanding half-time advantage gave Kerr’s side a platform to ease out of Portland’s reach, as expected, despite Damian Lillard’s fine efforts. The Warriors have now won 11 consecutive games against Portland. Next on the agenda is Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night as the Warriors looked to build on a winning start to their 10-game stint in California.
Warriors fans will be hoping that Steph Curry can make a return from a twisted ankle in time for the visit of Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day. In the 2015 MVP’s absence, Kevin Durant posted 35 and 36 in victories over the Hornets and Pistons last week. The No35 was the first Warriors player to emerge for warm up as he ran through his shooting drills. It’s a work ethic that Kerr clearly appreciates:
“He works really hard. All the best players have their routines and they are very regimented.
“When you watch KD he goes through his shooting drills really hard. Harder than just about anybody I’ve seen, game speed. He is driven to get better and he wants to get better.
“He is constantly working. He’s very conscientious in helping his team the best he can.”
Durant was the focal point of the Warriors team. The NBA Finals MVP set the tone with a block before he put up eight points in the first quarter. Fittingly, the 28-year-old ended the half with a block to secure a 60-47 lead at the break. Durant finished with 11 field goals and two three points to put up 28 points to continue build on his December momentum in the absence of Curry.
A worry for the Warriors will be Draymond Green’s right shoulder injury. Often described as the most important member of Kerr’s team as their defensive talisman, Golden State had to make do without two of their big four for the visit of Portland. Injuries have become a trend for the Warriors over the past few weeks. Curry’s sprained ankle sparked concern amongst the Dub nation. He will be out for at least another week. Georgian centre Zaza Pachulia missed out with a left shoulder problem. Kevin McCaw returned from a concussion to put up x in x minutes.
On Green’s shoulder problem, Kerr said pre game:
“I don’t think it’s serious, but it’s enough to keep him from playing tonight. It’s been bothering him the last few days and it’s still aggravated so we won’t play him tonight.”
David West swapped San Antonio Spurs for their Western Conference rivals Golden State in 2016. He became a NBA champion for the first time in his 14th season. His sharp passing made him an important member of Kerr’s bench. Having helped Golden State to finish with a 16-1 record following their Finals triumph over Cleveland, West signed a new contract in July. The 37-year-old has continued his form with some excellent performances in 2017-18 so far. In the absence of Curry, Green and Pachulia, West contributed 10 points and made three blocks in 17 minutes. He produced one of the moments of the night when he blocked Zach Collins route to the rim before his slam dunk brought the Oracle Arena to its feet less than a minute later. He continued to defy his 37 years with seven minutes to play. Skipping past an opponent, West dunked in emphatic fashion to score in double figures in consecutive games for the first time as a Warrior and first time since the 2015-16 season.
Damian Lillard led all scorers on Monday night with a cool 39. The Blazers point guard gave the Warriors a headache on his return to his Oakland. Showing no mercy against his hometown team, Lillard scored 11 fourth quarter points to cut Golden State’s lead down to single digits before a late flurry from Durant and Klay Thompson sealed a 111-104 win.
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BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge
BIOGRAPHY: Kepa Arrizabalaga