Curry vs. Lillard was the game within the game even though neither guarded each other much, if at all. - USA TODAY Sports
The Golden State Warriors blow another big lead but hold on at the end to prevail 103-97.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Damian Lillard split a double-team, spun down the lane, and flipped in a floater for his 566th consecutive made shot of the game (or so it seemed). Portland was storming back from a 20-point deficit and looked poised to at least tie the game behind Lillard's three-point heroics.
But Stephen Curry had finally had enough. He picked the ball up, stared at his fellow victim from the split double-team (Festus Ezeli) and yelled something inaudible before finally handing him the ball. Seconds later, Curry would run off two baseline screens, set his feet and nail a three-point shot to stretch the lead back up by 12.
Now that wasn't the game-winning shot or even something that significantly changed the course of the game. The Klay 3 and Lee elbow jumper had a "higher" tangible impact on the game, but it was Curry's accountability as a captain and the focus to back it up with the three that made it significant.
Curry's shooting stats weren't pretty (7-22 for 22 points) but he had 12 assists to one turnover—including a gorgeous left-handed pass to Lee down low—and was on the floor for 44 minutes. This is the sixth time in the past eight games he's played 38+ minutes and the third out of their past four games with 40+ minutes. Ton of floor-time and high-caliber production throughout.
See: all words I just wrote.
1. Harrison Barnes is the most maddening Warriors player to watch right now. Yes, even more so than Klay Thompson's best attempts at Mickael Pietrus' step-out-of-bounds on the drive turnovers. He comes out flashing the potential many has seen from when he was the seventh overall selection; making threes and hammering home dunks, but vanishes the rest of the game sans the steal and dunk at the beginning of the second half.
Meanwhile, Klay apparently has read my pieces here and responded with making plays off the dribble. He has nine assists in his past two games. Thompson came off screens several times and instead of dribbling to shoot, dribbled to pass to the release valve on the baseline. He even turned down a wide-open transition three to take it to the bucket. He missed the wide-open layup but still.
2. How bad is the Portland bench? On a back-to-back in which the Blazers' core players had all played 40+ minutes against the Miami Heat, their bench could only muster up two players that played double-digit minutes. Not only that but they didn't play well either, as Luke Babbitt shot 2-11 from distance. No matter, this didn't impede the rest of the Blazers from sucking equally, as they shot 43 threes and made 15. If not for Lillard, they'd be a paltry 8-31. The Lillard show it was.
Portland's 39 3s ties for third-most of any team this season, per bkb-ref. Most of any non-Knicks team.— Geoff Lepper (@geofflepper) January 12, 2013
3. Draymond Green played 16 minutes tonight, representing the most run he has had since 12/21/12 against the Charlotte Bobcats. He responded by making solid passes (late high-low pass to Carl Landry in the fourth), even making a shot (shock!), and playing solid defense (block on Lillard at the end). It doesn't seem as if he has full confidence in his shot yet but his contributions in every other aspect of the game makes him a solid player off the bench.
4. The Curry-Lee pick-and-roll/pop has gotten so good that it's become relatively boring to watch. Curry rubs off the screen, drives under the three-point arc and flips a one-handed pass to a wide-open Lee for the elbow jumper. Cheating on the jumper? Lee's improved passing and dribbling ability perfectly complements his ambidextrous finishes. A beautiful work of art.
5. If the 2012 NBA Draft were redone tomorrow night, who would you draft in the top three? We can all agree that Damian Lillard is the heavy favorite so far for the Rookie of the Year, but he may not even crack the first three selections in a re-do. With Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond (playing excellent basketball) at the top, it's interesting to gauge Lillard's value for the future. Regardless, he is awesome right now.
6. We may be starting to see the seams rip apart a bit in the past couple games. The Dubs have been outrebounded in their last three games, losses to the Clippers and Grizzlies, and tonight's win against the Blazers. While it is forgivable against big athletic forwards like DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and bruising centers like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, it gets a bit more worrisome against the likes of J.J. Hickson. Even though he is averaging 10.9 boards on the year, it looked increasingly like pre-2012 when the Warriors kept giving up offensive boards to the tune of 17.
A big win but the next three games against the Nuggets, Spurs and Heat will reveal a lot more about this team. Or maybe the Rockets, Grizzlies, Jazz stretch in February. Or maybe the seven-game homestand in mid-March in what should be a crazy battle for playoff spots. Or maybe the last four games of the season against the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers and Blazers.
Point being; it's a long season, enjoy the win.