Capsule preview of the Warriors-Trail Blazers series
A look at the Western Conference semifinal series between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers that begins Sunday (with regular-season and playoff records):
No. 1 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (73-9, 4-1) vs. No. 5 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (44-38, 4-2)
Season series: Warriors, 3-1. Portland handed Golden State its largest loss of the season with a 137-105 rout in the first game after the All-Star break, but otherwise the Warriors had too much firepower. Golden State averaged 130.7 points in its victories and hit 18 3-pointers in all three - though the Blazers made 19 when the teams combined for an NBA-record 37 in the Warriors' 128-112 victory on March 11. Stephen Curry averaged 32.5 points and Klay Thompson was 19 of 32 from 3-point range (59 percent) while adding 29.3 per game. Damian Lillard had a career-best 51 points in the Blazers' victory and 40 in another game.
Story line: The Warriors continue their quest for a second straight championship and perhaps the best season in NBA history without Curry, who is expected to miss at least the first three games with a sprained right knee. So at least at the start, Lillard and the Blazers dodge another All-Star point guard after Chris Paul missed the final two games of Portland's first-round victory over the Clippers with a broken right hand.
Key Matchup I: Shaun Livingston - and eventually Curry? - vs. Lillard. Lillard is an Oakland, California native who thrived this season against his hometown team, averaging 36.5 points. So it would be tough to ask Curry to have to face him at less than 100 percent, and there won't be pressure to rush him back if Livingston continues his fine play that produced three 16-point performances in the first round.
X-Factor: Harrison Barnes. The forward is in a postseason shooting slump (29 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point range) that even the high-powered Warriors might need him to escape if Curry remains out long.
Prediction: Warriors in 5.