Blazers week ahead 4/15




Game of the Week

Wednesday: Blazers vs. Warriors, 7:30 p.m. at Rose Garden Arena (KGW)

Key matchup: Will Barton vs Klay Thompson.

Since replacing the injured Wesley Matthews, Barton has shown nice signs — his aggressiveness going towards the rim and creating for others. On Sunday in Denver, even during the failed comeback, Barton had nice moments as the starting shooting guard and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Fine offensive numbers, but for this next challenge, Barton must show some defensive awareness. The Warriors’ second-year guard Klay Thompson will live on the perimeter to hoist 3-pointers (514 attempts this year), and often gets clean looks because the perimeter defenders focus on his backcourt mate, Stephen Curry. Barton must remember to stay home on this assignment and watch for pump fakes.

Key stat: The Blazers last won on March 22 in Atlanta by holding the Hawks to 44.6 percent shooting. During the 11-game losing streak, only two Portland opponents have shot worse than 50 percent.

To win: It remains to be seen how Warriors coach Mark Jackson will set his lineup in this regular-season finale. Golden State could still be locked in a race for the sixth-seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. If so, then the Warriors will play their starters to try to win Wednesday and stay ahead of Houston. Consequently, the Blazers could face a motivated opponent. Even so, the Blazers must return to the Rose Garden for the final time just as motivated. Besides the defense angle, the Blazers have to match the Warriors’ energy, focus and desire if they are to end the season on a high note.

By The Numbers

6 — Career-high assist total for J.J. Hickson. Only Sunday, Hickson was in the giving mood and helped on six buckets. Hickson’s previous best was five assists on Jan. 25, 2011 when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

7 — Number of consecutive home losses during this current streak by the 2012-2013 Blazers, the most of any team in franchise history.

33.75 — Points averaged by Portland’s bench over the past four games.