Warriors 125, Trail Blazers 98

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two teams headed in opposite directions in the playoff race continued along the same paths Saturday night when the Golden State Warriors gradually pulled away from the Portland Trail Blazers in a 125-98 victory at Oracle Arena.
Winning for the third time in four games on their current homestand, the Warriors (42-32) remained 1 1/2 games up on Houston (40-33) in the battle for the No. 6 playoff position in the Western Conference behind difference-making bench play and a brilliant, 39-point night by Stephen Curry.
The Trail Blazers (33-40), meanwhile, coming off a deflating 105-95 home loss to Utah on Friday, fell 4 1/2 games out of the final postseason spot in the West with their fourth consecutive defeat. Portland has only nine games remaining.
Curry, going head-to-head with Damian Lillard for the first time since the rookie lit him up for 37 points in an Oakland homecoming in January, added to his NBA lead in 3-pointers by making seven in 12 attempts while outscoring Lillard 39-16.
Even more dominant was the Golden State bench, which outscored its Portland counterparts 22-0 in the first half and had 29-10 and 12-4 advantages in points and rebounds, respectively, through three quarters before mostly reserves mopped up a blowout in the fourth quarter.
Carl Landry led the Warriors' bench with 25 points, hitting 9 of 10 shots from the field. He completed a double-double with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Meyers Leonard, starting in the Trail Blazers' front line because LaMarcus Aldridge stayed home with a sprained ankle, had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, which lost for the 13th time in its last 15 trips to Oakland. JJ Hickson also had a double-double for the Trail Blazers with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Lillard made just 4 of 11 shots from the field en route to his 16 points. He added eight assists. Backcourt mate Wesley Matthews scored 18 points.
Coming off a 105-98 home loss to Sacramento on Wednesday, the Warriors left no doubt against the third sub-.500 opponent in the last four games, nearly doubling a 10-point halftime advantage by the end of the third quarter en route to a 96-78 advantage.
Curry had three baskets, including a 3-pointer, and three of his six assists in the third-quarter runaway for the Warriors, who get yet another chance to take advantage of a friendly season-ending schedule with three days off before closing a five-game homestand Wednesday against another lottery-bound club, New Orleans.
The difference in a high-scoring first half, coincidentally, was a strong defensive stand by mostly a reserve unit that bridged the first and second quarters.
The Trail Blazers came out blazing and used 9-of-15 shooting from the field to open as much as an eight-point lead. But as soon as Warriors coach Mark Jackson went to his bench, the tide began to turn.
A lineup consisting of backups Landry, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green and Jarrett Jack limited the Trail Blazers to three points in the final 3:38 of the first quarter, helping the Warriors build a 36-31 advantage.
A little more than 4 1/2 minutes later, the margin was 49-36 as Portland missed five of its first six shots from the field in the second quarter.
The Trail Blazers were never closer than six the rest of the half and went into the break down 65-55.
Landry had 14 points in 11 first-half minutes off the bench as the Golden State backups outscored their counterparts 22-0.
Curry led all scorers in the half with 20.
NOTES: Aldridge, who missed Friday's critical home loss to Utah, did not make the trip to Oakland as he remained sidelined by a sprained right ankle. He has yet to be ruled out of the team's next game on Monday at Utah. ... The Warriors' Curry needed two 3-pointers to pass Tim Hardaway (602) for second place on the franchise's career list. Curry (1,350) began the game having attempted 347 fewer 3-pointers than Hardaway (1,697). ... The Warriors' Andrew Bogut took the court as one of just six active players with at least 4,000 rebounds and 600 blocked shots in his NBA career, joining Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Al Jefferson and Josh Smith. Bogut reached the 4,000-rebound milestone in Wednesday's home loss to Sacramento. ... The Trail Blazers began the night 3 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with eight games remaining. Asked before the game when he started referring to his team's playoff chances in the past tense, Portland coach Terry Stotts honestly replied, "Last night." ... If Portland starts focusing on its lottery position in the final 2 1/2 weeks of the regular season, it's understandable. The Trail Blazers will lose their first-round pick to Charlotte as part of the Gerald Wallace trade if the selection falls outside the top 12. Portland took the court with the 12th-worst record in the league. ... Asked before the game what the Warriors could do differently to prevent a repeat of Lillard's 37-point explosion in his previous Oakland visit, Warriors coach Mark Jackson assured, "If he plays like that, not much."

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