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Warriors vs. Blazers preview: Portland hasn't been good enough to beat Golden State

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In advance of Game 5, I asked Blazer's Edge manager Dave Deckard five questions about his thoughts on the series so far.

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Let me just begin with a bit of background here: I wouldn't normally contact an opposing blog asking for insight about an overtime loss in their house in which the recently-announced NBA MVP single-handedly beat them with a record performance.

But Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge contacted me about doing a follow-up Q&A to sort of review what's happened in this series so far and I obliged.

I didn't bother asking him what he thought about Game 4 because I can't imagine re-hashing that if I was on the losing end of that, but here's an excerpt from his recap of the game:

Lo, he came from the clouds shining like the sun and the earth trembled before him. The people hid themselves in caves and cried for the mountains to fall on their heads.

There was no battle, no prolonged dialogue. It was just...over.

If you're a masochist or a Warriors fan, here's a look at Curry's layups, offensive rebounds, triples, and a nice shot of Curry making Al-Farouq Aminu look like he doesn't exist.

So yeah...as I was saying, I didn't want to revisit that ... but here are the questions I did come up with.

Q&A with Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge

GSoM: Game 4 was probably amazing to watch as a neutral observer, but probably nerve-wracking to us. After the loss and facing the prospect that the season will end this round, what are you most proud of about this team based on this series?

Dave Deckard: Pride is a hard emotion to muster in the midst of a series, especially when your side is losing it. I thought the Blazers made nice adjustments and committed to their off-ball defense after returning home. The offense in Game 3 was a delight...motion galore, relatively free of the "tightening up in the moment" curse that's afflicted the team against Golden State.

Portland has played well enough. They just ran into a team with one more potential back-breaking star than they, plus role players experienced enough to do their job under any circumstance instead of one time in three like Portland's do. The Warriors are like an ATM, the Blazers like a slot machine. Both will pay out but only one does so predictably.

GSOM: Mason Plumlee finally stepped up in Portland after a rough start to the series. What did you see the Blazers doing better with him in Games 3 & 4?

Part of it appears to be self-motivation. Plumlee has games where he's amazing on the boards and other games where he's less of a factor. It's hard to argue with 7 offensive rebounds, 15 overall like he tallied in Game 4. He and his teammates did a better job curbing Andrew Bogut in Portland than they did in Oakland. Also the Blazers have fed Plumlee the ball where he's most comfortable, in the middle of the lane. That can be a "better or worse" situation — he's found open opportunities for teammates, but he's also turned over the ball as the Warriors have sniffed out his M.O.

The critical missing piece for Mason is offense. He's gone up like he expected to get fouled or blocked instead of making the shot. Draymond Green has gotten in his head. That's tipped the scale to the negative overall. If Plumlee could convert a 1-foot shot with authority he'd be a multi-layered threat. As it is, it feels like the Warriors are sitting on the pass, figuring they can handle him if he tries to make a scoring move. That's not ideal from a Portland perspective.

GSOM: I think a fair number of Warriors fans have been surprised by the play of Al-Farouq Aminu so far -- and there has been (joking?) talk about how he's been better than Barnes, who's likely up for a max contract (as has just about every other forward on Portland). Was this expected from you all?

Sure! Aminu does this every once in a while. He's been on a hot streak during this series. Frankly I think he likes this matchup. But he'll play like this for a week and then revert for two. We've been blessed to experience some superb Aminu Concentrate in this series. I doubt this means he's gotten over his shaky tendencies. (Rewind that Clippers Series for an example.) But maybe there's hope for consistency.

GSOM: Reasonable people expected Lillard to have a big game to grab a win. Has there been anything that the Blazers have done well this series that you maybe didn't expect?

"Reasonable people", eh? I seem to recall after the first Q&A we did that some Golden State of Mind commenters thought I was being saucy for daring to suggest that Lillard would win at least one game for the Blazers on his own and that the series wouldn't turn out to be a Golden State sweep. So now that's reasonable? Good to know.

I guess for certain stretches they took the Warriors out of their game. I only watched a middling amount of Golden State games this year because they were pretty much a known entity and I prefer scoping out teams I'm not sure of. The games I did see were nearly uniformly excellent. For a while in Games 2 and 3 the Warriors looked, well...mortal. Their plays were stilted, screens non-descript, and they delved into sketchy iso offense. Part of that may have been nonchalance, but the Blazers also put pressure on them. At no point outside of the last 1:23 of Game 3 have I felt Portland was sure to win a game, but it was cool to see the Warriors stumbling and bumbling like your garden-variety semi-effective NBA team for even a quarter or two.

GSOM: Has there been anything you expected the Blazers to do well that they just haven't so far?

Rebound. Their edge should have been bigger and served them better. It's the foundation of their success and Golden State has managed to make inroads. The Blazers have been good, but not dominant. They needed everything to go right to beat the Warriors and this just hasn't.

For more on the perspective from Portland, check out Blazer's Edge.