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Analysis: Even missing three starters, the Warriors prove too much for Trail Blazers

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Playing without Curry, Green, and Pachulia, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson lead the Warriors to a 111-104 victory.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After a six-game road trip, the Warriors were happy to be back in the Bay Area for the first time since the end of November to play the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Warriors would not be at full strength for this game, however, as Stephen Curry remained out of the lineup, while Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia were given the night off as well to heal their various injuries. But even missing three starters, the Warriors played well for long stretches and earned a 111-104 victory that was not that close.

Trail Blazers take advantage of shaky Warriors defense, lead at the end of the first quarter

With both Curry and Green missing this game, Kevin Durant was going to have to carry a significant part of the load for the Warriors yet again, as he did in Charlotte and Detroit. Durant scored eight of his team-high 28 points in the first quarter, including two on this sensational play.

The player who made that Durant bucket possible was Jordan Bell, who found himself in the starting lineup given the Warriors’ absences. The rookie kept the play alive by fighting for the offensive rebound and then found the open Durant for the driving bucket. Bell made another impressive play later in the first quarter.

Getting the ball from Omri Casspi, Bell knows to wait for the defender to leap over him so he’s able to score the bucket and not risk getting fouled or blocked. You’ll see young big men not making this play, going up at the inopportune time — unable to convert the basket. It was a very small thing, but it was impressive, and Bell made another play that a rookie usually doesn’t make.

Even though Durant started out well and Bell made those nice plays, at the end of the first quarter, the Trail Blazers were winning by two. This was due in large part to their ability to get in the paint and convert.

The Trail Blazers scored 16 points in the paint in the first quarter, with many of them coming from Damian Lillard and Evan Turner.

Given that the Warriors were without three major contributors in Curry, Green and Pachulia, it was understandable that the Warriors’ defense would be a bit off to start the game. There are players not used to playing with one another, who don’t know their role or the right rotation to make. But because the defense was not as locked in as it could be, and with Lillard and C.J. McCollum combining for 14 points in the quarter, the Trail Blazers were able to take advantage and hold the lead after one quarter.

The Warriors bench makes big contributions in the second quarter

Trailing as the second quarter began, the Warriors looked for a boost off the bench and they found it in the form of Nick Young.

Young scored seven of his 12 points in the second quarter, allowing the Warriors to claim the lead that they would never again relinquish in Monday night’s game. But Young was not the only bench player getting into the action in the second quarter, as David West made some spectacular plays as well.

On one play, the veteran big man made a monster block on a Zach Collins shot attempt that would have cut the Warriors lead to one. Then, after Andre Iguodala grabbed a defensive rebound, he got the ball to a trailing West for the thunderous dunk. Not to be outdone by his fellow veteran, Iguodala contributed his own dunk as well, shortly after West’s.

The Warriors’ bench contributed 16 of the team’s 33 second-quarter points, allowing the Warriors to turn a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead by halftime. Returning to the game with 6:21 to go in the second quarter, Durant helped the Warriors build on that great effort by their reserves.

Here, Durant makes one of his two three-pointers for the game, pushing the Warriors lead to 13. Durant also had one of his three blocks in the second quarter as time wound down.

While Durant has always been known as a scoring machine and an elite offensive weapon, his abilities as a defender and rim protector continue to shine this season. In this game, Durant took on some of Green’s usual responsibilities.

While he has posted better game-long defensive efforts (I’m thinking specifically of the Detroit game), he had some brilliant moments against the Trail Blazers. Between his defensive effort and scoring 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting, Durant led the way for the Warriors in the first half and helped the team to a double-digit halftime lead.

Another third quarter in which the Warriors begin to run away

The Warriors used another third quarter to take control of a game. It did not seem that way initially, as the Trail Blazers looked poised to go on a run with Lillard stealing the ball from Bell and sprinting towards the basket to bring the lead back to single digits. But, then ...

Durant caused Lillard to slow up initially with the threat of the chase-down block, and then Bell came shooting into the picture to reject Lillard’s attempt. But Bell was not finished making spectacular plays in the third quarter. He went on to grab a steal off of a bad pass by Turner and drop in a layup at the other end.

In just his second start, Bell scored 11 points while grabbing 6 rebounds. Bell scored nine of those 11 points in the third quarter, with another two coming on one of Durant’s five assists.

Though not tallying as many assists as he did in the previous two games, only handing out five against the Trail Blazers, Durant again showed his abilities as a play initiator — being a distributor when the game calls for it.

Against the Trail Blazers, we see why the Warriors would be particularly interested in Durant and why he would be so open to joining the Warriors. Durant is a player particularly able to pick up the slack for Curry, whether he is out of the lineup or playing but struggling. The Warriors have unlocked aspects of Durant’s game that had laid dormant and underdeveloped while he was in Oklahoma City.

The Warriors pushed the lead to 24 on this three-point play by Quinn Cook, who showed flashes of potential in this opportunity to play with the big club.

Up by 24 points with under two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Warriors seemed on their way to another victory with an unexciting fourth. But the Trail Blazers, after scoring six unanswered points to close the quarter, were able to make things just a little bit more interesting.

Lillard tries his best in the fourth quarter, but he couldn’t bring the Trail Blazers back

The Trail Blazers rode a 17-4 run, one that began with that 6-0 burst to end the third, to cut into a lead that had been as big as 24 points, eventually getting the deficit down to single digits.

Lillard played a big role in leading that charge, scoring 11 of his game-high 39 points in the fourth. Once again, Lillard put on a show while playing against his hometown team.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Playing in his hometown, Damian Lillard did his best to lead the Trail Blazers back against the Warriors but ultimately came up short.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Including playoff games, it was Lillard’s 14th game in Oakland against the Warriors and his fifth time scoring 30 or more points.

With the Trail Blazers making this run, the Warriors needed players to step up and contribute. Not surprisingly, West was more than ready to do so.

In a game in which the veteran big man seemed to turn back the clock, West threw down his second vicious dunk of the night that made the Warriors’ bench go absolutely crazy. West finished the game with 10 points and an impressive 4 blocks. (It was his second consecutive game with 10 or more points.)

But West’s dunk wasn’t enough to stop the Trail Blazers, as they eventually cut that Warriors’ lead to single digits. But Klay Thompson provided a couple of timely three-pointers that, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach.

Thompson had, quite possibly, the quietest 24 points anyone could have, struggling to score at times and shooting a below-average (for him) 42.8% from the field. But Thompson did knock down two of his four three-pointers in the fourth quarter and allowed the Warriors to stay ahead of the Trail Blazers and bring home the victory.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant shined once again with Stephen Curry out of the lineup, displaying the complete nature of his game in the Warriors 111-104 victory
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State earned its seventh-straight victory Monday night against the Trail Blazers. The team will go for eight in a row at home on Thursday night against Dallas, looking to continue its run of good play even while dealing with numerous player injuries and ailments.

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder against the Dallas Mavericks?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Kevin Durant
    (302 votes)
  • 7%
    Klay Thompson
    (88 votes)
  • 32%
    Jordan Bell
    (371 votes)
  • 12%
    Omri Casspi
    (140 votes)
  • 19%
    Andre Iguodala
    (222 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (Leave your answer in the comments)
    (3 votes)
1126 votes total Vote Now