Oakland's Lillard coming home to face Warriors

Oakland's Lillard coming home to face Warriors
January 11, 2013, 9:00 am
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Oakland native Damian Lillard is averaging 18.0 points, 6.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game his rookie season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

At some point, they’re seemingly all big games.

With each night, a new challenge awaits.

“I’ve said this before, every game is the same; every game is a big game,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said prior to Wednesday loss vs. Memphis. “It seems like every game we are sitting here saying, 'this is a big game' and 'this one is important.'”

Tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers (19-15) come to Oakland and are currently placed as the No. 8 team in the Western Conference. They trail the Warriors in that fifth spot by 3.0 games.

As the the first matchup this season between the two teams, it’s a big game. And the Warriors have won 11 of the last 13 against Portland in Oakland.

No gimmes

After Wednesday night’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors lost the first of a 10-game stretch that includes nine games against teams currently slotted in playoff spots.

The Trail Blazers have won three consecutive games and seven of their last 10.

The Warriors have lost two consecutive games, only the second time that’s happened all season; they haven’t lost three in a row all season.

After delivering the Los Angeles Clippers their worst loss of the season on Jan. 2, the Warriors fell on the road versus the Clippers and at home against the Grizzlies.

Lillard returns home

Portland guard Damian Lillard, the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year, returns home tonight.

Lillard was first-team all-league for Oakland High School his junior and senior seasons after transferring from St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda.

The 6-foot-3 guard didn't receive heavy offers and ended up playing in the Big Sky Conference at Weber State. He declared for the draft after averaging 24.5 points during a redshirt junior season and was drafted sixth overall by Portland.

Lillard is now averaging 18.2 points and 6.5 assists through his first 34 games in the NBA with evidence of a consistent shot he can release with quickness and range.

Lillard told Chris Palmer of ESPN that he had season tickets to the Warriors when he was younger and looked forward to playing there:

“Oh, I'm excited about it. When I was in grade school, my family had season tickets when they had Antawn Jamison, Jason Richardson and Mookie Blaylock. Our seats were in the lower bowl, 20 rows up.”

How they match up

The Warriors were beat up inside by the physical Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Memphis scored 60 points in the paint and won the rebounding battle 43-38.

The Warriors boast a 20-2 record and 11-0 at home when they outrebound their opponent. The Warriors, ranked No. 5 in the league in rebounding at 45.4 per game, will need to overpower the Trail Blazers -- ranked 22nd at 41.3 rebounds per game -- on the glass.

Tonight, David Lee won’t have much of a break and will match up against Portland's star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who averages 20.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Rookie Festus Ezeli and the combination of Carl Landry and Andris Biedrins may also take turns guarding the 6-foot-11 scorer.

Forward Nicolas Batum, 6-foot-8, is averaging 18.2 points per game and will be a challenge for rookie Harrison Barnes. Stephen Curry will match up with Lillard in what should be a tremendous display of swiftness and shooting.

Follow @jimmypspencer on Twitter for Warriors news and analysis.