The Golden State Warriors didn’t take it easy on a visiting Portland Trail Blazers’ team that was missing its star point guard, Damian Lillard, to injury. And it’s a good thing they didn’t.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined for 65 points, Draymond Green added 11 assists and the Warriors managed to defeat the Blazers, 125-117.
These aren’t quite the same Blazers that fans have come to respect in recent years (strange how 45-point shellackings will make folks take a team less seriously). Former NBA coach George Karl speculated that Damian Lillard’s popularity (State Farm commercials that are instant classics, a rap album) is somehow the cause of the team’s decline. So perhaps it is fitting that Portland leaned on its remaining guards (or, guard insurance!?) to give the Warriors a challenge few expected in Oracle.
C.J. McCollum scored 35 points and Cal Berkeley product Allen Crabbe added 18 points of his own, as the Blazers got solid contributions from nearly everyone on the roster. And those contributions were almost enough to beat a Warriors’ juggernaut that played well by most standards.
Durant was his ultra-efficient self, though perhaps a bit more passive this time, taking just 16 shots in 37 minutes of action. He led all players in plus-minus with a plus-22 rating, and blocked three shots.
Curry wasn’t the “three cannon”-blazing MVP that he can be at his best, but he was aggressive in finding the basket, at range or in the paint, and he even managed to lead the team in rebounding. But, like the Warriors as a whole, he was dogged by unforced errors (five turnovers for Curry, and 15 team turnovers). Oh, and an offensively talented Blazers’ team that just never stopped scoring.
In the second quarter, McCollum performed his best Lillard impersonation, as the Blazers turned a 13-point deficit into an eight-point lead with seconds remaining in the first half. Rip City scored several easy buckets in transition against a Dubs’ lineup caught napping one too many times. And then McCollum caught fire with roughly four minutes remaining in the half, scoring 12 points on a variety of pull-up jumpers. The Blazers scored 71 points in the half, the most the Warriors have surrendered in a half all season.
Defensively, the Warriors settled down in the third quarter (as they usually do). Some of Portland’s tough shots caromed off the rim rather than in, and the Warriors made a better effort to get back defensively to limit transition opportunities. In the paint, Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia consistently crashed in on drives, holding the Trail Blazers to 38 points in the paint and blocking a combined seven shots.
Offensively, the Warriors did the opposite. The team scored a whopping 30 points in transition as they pushed the pace in the open court after missed shots and turnovers. In half court sets, the team ran its action so early that almost every possession looked like a fast break. And the faster the Golden State offense accelerated, the slower and sloppier Portland’s own offense became.
Still, the Warriors could never fully shake their neighbors up north. Green racked up five fouls and had to sit a bit longer than usual. And unlike most games that feature a late growing lead, the Blazers threatened until the end of the game, forcing players like Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala to play more than is typical for them.
Even without Damian Lillard, the Blazers were almost able to keep pace with the Warriors — which sounds scary. But that might have more to do with their shot makers, and what they were able to do on Wednesday for a time. Fortunately, the Warriors were able to call upon a ferocious block-happy interior and transition offense to earn the win.
The Dubs move to 31-5 for the second consecutive year and host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.
Other stuff that needs to be said
- The Warriors’ defense was effective in limiting the Blazers to 44.9% shooting as a team, and forced 17 turnovers on its own (14 via steals). The Warriors shot 50.6% from the field as a team.
- The bench was very reliable tonight, if not fantastic. Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark were great in the back court, and Iguodala and David West provided help on the glass defensively. Only two players (Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee) finished with negative plus-minus, and they did it in six minutes of combined action.
- Jeff Van Gundy continues to perpetuate the myth that the Houston Texans were screwed in Mexico City, in a loss to the Raiders. They weren’t. The photos are definitive. He stepped out of bounds. I’ll tweet it to you again. And how is Martinez-born Jeff Van Gundy, who grew up a Raiders fan, a Houston Texans fan?