The Golden State Warriors are your 2014-2015 Pacific Division Champions.
In what was merely a formality, the Warriors traveled north to Portland's hostile Moda Center to battle the shorthanded Trailblazers. And without critical pieces like LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews, this one went about as expected. As they've done so often this season, the Dubs used a dominant, effortless, power-house third quarter to turn this recap from a "come from behind" narrative to "another night at the office."
Portland played with a great deal of heart, as Oakland's own Damian Lillard posted a big 29 / 7 / 5 slash line. But even away from Oracle Arena, the Warriors would not be denied. After playing to a near-standstill for a half, with Rip City holding a 62-57 advantage, Golden State just sort of fell into place in the third quarter. In twelve-and-a-half minutes, the boys in blue flipped a five point halftime deficit into a 16-point advantage, and the game was very nearly over.
Once again, the Warriors downed a quality opponent with a passing attack that appears to get better by the game. The team hung a whopping 37 assists on Portland, versus 13 turnovers. And with 50 field goals made on the night, three out of every four field goals came with a helper. The Trailblazers guards, Lillard, Aaron Afflalo and C.J. McCollum, struggled to keep the perimeter covered from strong side to weak side, as Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and the rest of the guards rained threes all second half.
The substantial Golden State cheering section in Portland wasn't cheated out of a few key performances. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut each turned in vintage outings that should have other would-be-contenders worried. Possible league MVP Stephen Curry won the headlines with a sparkling 33 point, 10 assist night (with only two turnovers!). But it was Bogut and Draymond in particular who powered this Dubs victory.
In addition to protecting the rim and dominating the glass (27 combined rebounds), the feisty duo largely ran the offense for huge stretches of time throughout the evening. Their 14 assists don't even begin to tell the story: when Golden State reeled off a cool 21-3 run in six third-quarter minutes, it was Draymond Green playing point-forward like a beast. Stephen Curry would force a break off of a rebound only to pass it to Draymond Green, who would the ball, slice through the middle of the lane, and kick it out for a beautiful jump shot, or; elevate up and drop it off to a Warriors player, waiting under the hoop for the easy score.
His active hands interrupted or deterred interior passes all night long, while his willingness and ability to push the ball in the open court absolutely reeked of franchise player.
Portland's valiant effort was largely doomed from the start. With only three big men active, all of whom are centers, head coach Terry Stotts was faced with a no-win situation: go super big with two centers starting and get fricasseed by an all-time great small-ball lineup, or go even smaller with former Warriors wing Dorell Wright at the four and give Draymond Green his first size advantage ever.
Wright was able to knock down a couple of threes, and stretch out the floor an offense that had to rely on Damian Lillard (and an impressive C.J. McCollum effort off the bench). And indeed, the Blazer offense scored 108 points against a Warriors defense that has been choking the life out of good teams all year. But the Warriors won the rebounding battle by a large 11-board margin, and with dominance in the paint secured, Portland required a near-miraculous shooting performance to pull this one out.
It didn't happen.
Now, the Warriors travel to the Grindhouse, Memphis Tennessee, to face the only team in the Association to escape the Dubs' hammer (for now). Unfortunately, a game at the House of Horrors which had many fans circling their calendar a few months back now may not have quite so much juice. After all, the Warriors have virtually secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They also hold an incredible 58-13 record. They feature three defensive player of the year candidates, an MIP candidate and the MVP front-runner. And for the first time in 39 years, the Golden State Warriors are Champions of the Pacific Division.
Until the playoffs start, who cares about anything besides that?