The Portland Trail Blazers are on the verge of clinching their third consecutive postseason berth, but coach Nate McMillan doesn’t want his squad looking too far ahead. The Golden State Warriors could cause his team plenty of problems on Tuesday night.
The Blazers look to win their season-high ninth straight at home as they face a Warriors team that’s dropped eight consecutive road games.
One game ahead of New Orleans and Memphis for sixth place in the Western Conference standings, Portland (45-32) will earn a spot in the playoffs with either a victory or a Houston loss to Sacramento on Tuesday.
The Blazers could have clinched Sunday with a 104-96 win over Dallas, but the ninth-place Rockets staved off elimination with a 114-109 win against Atlanta.
“Tomorrow night we need to come out with the same intensity, focus - (the Warriors), we’ve had some trouble against,” McMillan, whose team has won eight of 11, said following Monday’s practice. “We had them here in our building and were able to escape with a (96-95) victory (on Dec. 18) with Monta Ellis(notes) missing a game winner. Then they get us down in Oakland (a 109-102 loss on Dec. 25). It’s a team that can cause some problems with their speed and their ability to score.”
Ellis, averaging a team-best 32.5 points against the Blazers this season after scoring 39 in the Christmas Day victory, may still be tough to cover for Wesley Matthews(notes) and Andre Miller(notes) despite suffering a strained right ankle in Wednesday’s 110-91 loss at Memphis.
The Warriors sixth-year guard bounced back from that injury and scored 18 of his 32 in the third quarter of Saturday’s 99-92 win over the Mavericks.
“We just have to learn from these games,” Ellis said. “Watch a lot of film and see the good things we did and correct the bad things we did. Treat every game like it’s our last five. We still have a job to do and that’s to finish the season up strong.”
The Warriors’ defense is not strong - they are 29th in scoring defense at 106.1 points per game - but they limited the Mavericks to 41.1 percent shooting from the field Saturday to improve to 16-4 when holding teams under 100 points.
The Blazers are scoring 103.6 points per game - 7.1 more than their season average - during their home winning streak. The team’s last 9-0 stretch at home was a 12-game run Jan. 24-March 9, 2009.
LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) leads the Blazers with 22.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game during their current surge at home, while Gerald Wallace(notes) is averaging 16.4 and 6.9, respectively, in these contests.
Golden State guard Stephen Curry(notes), who missed the Dec. 18 loss with a sprained right ankle, will play his first game in Portland since helping the Warriors snap a four-game road skid in this matchup with a career-high 42 points in a 122-116 victory last April 14.