Give the Portland Trailblazers credit.
The underdogs had plenty of opportunities to pack up and quit. But to a man, they never did. Tonight, Damian Lillard (28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and CJ McCollum (27 points, eight rebounds, five assists) made sure of that.
They weren't alone, however. The Blazers got solid contributions from much of its roster, including a career game from Cal product Allen Crabbe (20 points). And it still wasn't enough.
Klay Thompson roasted Portland in the second and third, and Stephen Curry's heroics sealed it late, as the Warriors came back from a fourth consecutive halftime deficit to upend Rip City.
The game started with a well-deserved MVP ceremony at midcourt for Stephen Curry. Commissioner Adam Silver was there (along with, uh, the President of Kia Motors...?) to present the prestigious Maurice Podoloff trophy. Unfortunately, for the second straight season, Curry caught a bad case of the rattles after the trophy ceremony. Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies won the "Maurice Podoloff" game two of the Western Conference semis 97-90, as Curry was a shockingly mortal 7-of-19 with 19 points.
Wednesday night started similarly, as the Blazers roared to a big first quarter lead again, with the score as lopsided as 18-8 early. Mr. Unanimous struggled with his shot, opening just 3-of-9 in the first half. It was clear that Portland's strategy was to force someone else -- anyone else to beat them. They attempted to pressure the ball out of his hands, and kept an adjacent defender cheating over on almost every possession. But rather than force the action as he did in the fourth quarter and overtime of the game four victory, he moved the ball and racked up five first half assists in the process.
Still, Portland's hot start was as demoralizing as it could be. Al-Farouq Aminu and birthday boy Maurice Harkless continued to hit quality jumpers, and the Blazers consistently found openings in the Warriors defense. Two quick Klay Thompson fouls forced him to the bench early in the first quarter, and left the Warriors offense wobbly in the early action.
But the Warriors just managed to stick around, as they always do. But the Trailblazers responded each time with scoring runs that would sink lesser teams. 10-0, then 11-0, then 8-0, every time the Warriors cut into the lead. Then Thompson got hot, and scored 13 points in the second quarter. And halftime hardly slowed him down: he scored 16 in the third quarter as the Warriors finally pulled even (they lead after three quarters, 93-91).
Klay Thompson and others did a terrific job of defending Damian Lillard with tight pressure and relatively few fouls. The Oakland native did sink 12-of-12 free throws, but he also took 24 shots and turned the ball over five times. If Lillard is that inefficient, the Warriors should beat the Blazers more often than not.
The Dubs finally got the buckets they needed to begin to separate themselves late, with minutes left in the fourth. But even with their season on the verge of ending, the Blazers found the resolve to make one last furious push. A timely 7-0 Blazers run made the score 110-109. From there, a clutch stop, and back-to-back three pointers by MVPs Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry opened up the margin, just slightly. From there, it was all hands on deck to put away the pesky Trailblazers.
Klay Thompson played excellent defense on Damian Lillard on the penultimate possession, forcing a miss. Then Stephen Curry went all Curry on Portland, Oregon. Game. Set. Match. Series.
Backboard camera angle of Steph's mammoth dagger https://t.co/pwJvPSf9F0— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) May 12, 2016
By the way....
- Livingston got a standing ovation when he returned to the game. He's officially a fan-favorite, and all he had to do was call a referee a [expletive]. Way to get their attention, S-dot!
- Andrew Bogut injured his right abductor in the first half, and was ruled out for the second half. More on his injury as we get details, but it didn't seem terribly serious.
- Mason Plumlee continued to get worked over by Warriors rim protectors. Despite being the tallest player on the floor at all times, he was blocked ten times this series. Ouch.
- Klay fouled Damian Lillard with 10.9 seconds left on a critical three point attempt -- except not really. Referees rarely award such a borderline foul with seconds left in a playoff game, or any game. If you're playing a point spread, these are the kinds of plays that make you want to quit. Or double-down (which means you have a problem).
- This series was awesome. This is what I dream about when I fantasize about basketball. Thank you Portland Trailblazers, and best of luck in the future.
The Warriors are returning to the Western Conference Finals after finishing off the Blazers in Game 5. https://t.co/gQncoCygll— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) May 12, 2016