Two teams that have undergone serious changes since they met in the Western Conference finals just six months ago renew acquaintances Monday night when the Portland Trail Blazers visit the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.
Neither team rates near the top of the West in the early going this season, but Portland surely is a lot closer than Golden State, the five-time defending conference champion that has three NBA titles in that span.
The Trail Blazers have opened 3-3, but the losses have been by a total of just 12 points against three of the league's top teams -- Denver, San Antonio and Philadelphia.
The most recent of the losses was the most painful, with the 76ers' Furkan Korkmaz drilling a game-winning 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining for a 129-128 stunner Saturday night at Portland.
The Trail Blazers got 74 points from Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Rodney Hood, but the other 54 came from guys who played little or none when Portland got swept out of its shot at the Finals last May.
"We've added some versatility, playmaking ... we have good size," said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. "There's a lot to like about the roster. Certainly, having the carryover of Dame and CJ, it starts with that. But the guys that we've brought in really fit with how we want to play on both ends. We had a really good year last year. I think we have a chance to be a better team this year."
Portland's current look is a little newer than Stotts had envisioned even a week ago. New starters Zach Collins (dislocated shoulder) and Hassan Whiteside (bruised knee) have gotten hurt, and they join rehabbing big man Jusuf Nurkic on the sidelines.
If the Trail Blazers are looking for sympathy, they've arrived at the wrong destination.
Since doing the whitewashing in the Western finals, the Warriors have lost Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston off the roster, with Klay Thompson (ACL surgery), Stephen Curry (finger surgery) and Draymond Green (finger injury) also currently missing.
In fact, when the 1-5 Warriors take the court Monday night, they are expected to do so without any player who scored a point in any of the four games against the Trail Blazers in May.
Coach Steve Kerr insisted even he failed to show up for the final minutes of a wacky finish to Saturday's 93-87 home loss to Charlotte. The Warriors couldn't get the ball inbounds on a key possession before Kerr had his big men on the bench when Golden State desperately needed -- and failed to get -- rebounds on opportunity-creating missed free throws by the Hornets in the final seconds.
"Our guys played fantastic basketball and fought like crazy and then their coach decided to screw things up at the end," Kerr told reporters afterward.
"I take responsibility for that one. Tough way to lose. A couple of things at the end if could have executed a little bit better and if I made a couple of different decisions, I think we would've been in good shape. A tough one."
The Warriors also were without D'Angelo Russell (sprained ankle) in that one. He's a possibility to return for Monday's game.
Otherwise, Golden State once again will be forced to leave their point guard minutes to a pair of two-way players -- Damion Lee and Ky Bowman -- who kept the undermanned Warriors in the game against Charlotte with a combined 29 points.
The loss was the Warriors' fourth straight to open their new arena in San Francisco.
--Field Level Media