Curry vs. Lillard: Expect the best

Blazers confident they can compete with league-best Warriors

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — After Damian Lillard’s 51 points led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 32-point shellacking of the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 19, Friday’s match-up suddenly became much more intriguing.

The following night, Warriors guard Klay Thompson told reporters in Los Angeles it was “a fluke.” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked about Lillard’s 51-point performance after the game, to which he offered “he looked like Steph Curry out there.”

The Blazers know they were fortunate to catch Golden State in the first game after the All-Star break but they’re not apologizing either.

“Everybody usually comes back with a little bit of rust, but that night was our night,” Lillard said of the 137-105 Blazers win on Feb. 19. “I think they probably had a sour taste in their mouth about how it happened. But at this point we expect everybody’s best and they should expect ours too.”

“We, as a team, feel that we can compete with anybody,” Allen Crabbe said. “If we stick to our principles and things we know that are most effective we have shot with anybody. I think we’ve proven that this year.”

The Blazers practiced at home before flying down for their third meeting with the 57-6 Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Playing in his hometown of Oakland has always been big for Lillard, dating back to his first career game there when he scored 37 points.

And this game, like every game down the stretch, is a big one for the Warriors. Important both for their quest to win an NBA-record 73 games but also to protect their 3 1/2 lead over the San Antonio Spurs (54-10 as of Thursday) for home court throughout the playoffs.

Then there is the matter of the way the Blazers won. A Warriors-style blowout, which of course irked the Warriors because for the first time all season, it happened to them.

In two games, Lillard is averaging 45.5 points and 8.5 assists on 54.5 percent shooting from the field. He is shooting 56 percent from 3-point range.

Curry’s numbers against the Blazers haven’t been quite as good as normal, but a still hyper-efficient 46 percent from long-range and 49 percent from the field overall while playing just 28 minutes and averaging 28.5 points per game and seven assists per game.

But the numbers are just a small part. It’s just fun to watch these guys go. That Lillard will have a chunk of friends and family in the arena could add a little more to what’s been a fun match-up this season.

“You always (excited) just to be there to see Dame, what he did last time against them,” Crabbe said. “It’s like damn, I can’t believe he really did that. And he’s going back home. You got two great point guards going at it. It’s always an exciting show.”

Lillard said that the last time he was this excited to return to Oakland was when he was a rookie.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said.