Warriors Trusting Their Defensive Formula to Slow Down Blazers' Backcourt

OAKLAND -- While the Warriors and much of Planet Basketball await the fate of Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, there are a couple other challenges, both healthy, that the Trail Blazers will present.

Namely, 6-foot-3 guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Regardless of whether Nurkic is cleared to play Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round series -- he is expected to be a game-time decision -- the Warriors realize the key to slowing the Blazers begins and ends with the league's highest-scoring backcourt.

"They're really dynamic," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Friday. "They understand how to score and play-make. They always keep their foot on the gas pedal. You're not going to take everything away from them."

Lillard in the regular season averaged 27 points per game, finishing sixth among NBA scorers. McCollum was 20th, averaging 23 points. Their combined 50 points led all starting backcourts, ahead of Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (49.7).

Klay Thompson and Curry were third among starting backcourts, combining for 47.6 points per game.

Over his last 21 games -- as the Blazers went 16-5 during a remarkable push for the playoffs -- Lillard averaged 29.5 points, including a career-high 59-point outburst April 8 against Utah. McCollum was steady, averaging 22 points per game.

"Both guys score from anywhere on the floor," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

"They're so talented, you've got to be able to just stay solid and make them work, make them take tough shots," Curry said. "Even if they make them, don't get discouraged. Whenever they're on the floor, they're a threat. You can never relax."

Thompson generally gets the primary assignment on Lillard, who gives away four inches in height. Thompson uses his length to try to keep Lillard in front of him while also not giving him too much room to launch 3-pointers. Lillard made 214 triples, shooting 37 percent from deep.

McCollum's long-range shooting was considerably better: 42.1 percent on 185 makes. He will see plenty of Thompson, as the Warriors shuffle defenders against Portland's guards.

"He runs a lot," Thompson said of McCollum, whose 206.9 on-court miles this season lead the league. "So does Lillard. We have a formula to defend them and, hopefully, we execute."

As if Lillard and McCollum aren't enough, Portland has a third bomber. Allen Crabbe is the team's designated scorer off the bench. His 44.4-percent shooting beyond the arc (134 makes) was third in the NBA.

As much of a factor as Nurkic may be, Crabbe, at 6-foot-6, is the wild card. Though he is dealing with left foot pain, he has enough firepower to make things interesting.

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