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Golden State shines in total team basketball win over Portland on Easter Sunday

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The Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard had an impressive scoring night, but ultimately proved that two guys alone cannot get it done. Warriors go up 1-0 in opening round series.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game One
JaVale McGee blocks Damian Lillard at Oracle Arena on April 16, 2017.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

In the first game of the opening round series against Portland, Golden State pulled away for the win in the fourth quarter. But the Trail Blazers had managed to keep it close, or even tied, for much of the game, thanks to C.J. McCollum, who was playing out-of-his-mind basketball.

The beauty of team ball

Unfortunately for Portland, the burden to keep up with the Warriors had been placed squarely on the shoulders of McCollum and Damian Lillard, with Evan Turner also having some big moments. But, as Draymond Green said in an on-court postgame interview with Lisa Salters, “it wasn’t sustainable.” By “it,” he meant two guys doing it all for their team the entire game.

A comparison of team stats shows the Warriors’ monster advantage in terms of roster depth and balance:

ESPN.com

The Warriors’ ability to secure a solid 109-121 victory was not a result of an across-the-board demolition of its opponent. The Trail Blazers played well and even bested the Warriors in certain areas, like points in the paint and steals, and came up equal with the Warriors on made three-pointers — the bread-and-butter of the Golden State offense.

But the Warriors out-rebounded the Trail Blazers (by seven — again, not a demolition), and pulled away with double-digit advantages in the following key areas: field-goal percentage, assists, blocks and fast-break points. Golden State made only three more buckets than Portland but finished the night with a 10.1% advantage in that area of the stat sheet, showing efficiency in shots attempted versus shots made.

Additionally, Golden State tallied 11 more assists, 7 more blocks, and a whopping 14 more fast-break points than Portland — all of which illustrates the beauty of team ball versus star ball. The 11-assist advantage shows the willingness of Golden State to share the ball, with multiple guys getting involved in the offense. The 14-point advantage on fast breaks is a direct result of the team tallying seven more blocks than the Trail Blazers and the Warriors’ overall killer defensive, with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and JaVale McGee having commanding performances on the night.

Here’s what the game looked like by quarter:

First quarter

Warriors won the Kevin Durant tip to Draymond Green who dished to Zaza Pachulia, who pulled up for a mid-ranger jumper. The Trail Blazers’ sloppy first possession led to a turnover and Stephen Curry’s first shot of the night: a three-pointer, with Damian Lillard running him down. Durant made his way to the line and the Warriors were up 7-2 in the first two minutes of the game.

After a trip to the charity stripe, Durant drove to the basket for a two, but the Warriors quickly learned it was a colossal mistake to leave C.J. McCollum unguarded behind the arc. With five minutes left in the quarter, McCollum’s timely baskets had tied the game at 11.

But Durant wants a ring, dammit, so he wasn’t having any of it. He used his solid defensive skills to force a Portland turnover, get out on the fast break, cross over and slam. And then he secured a rebound on the the other end, leading to a total of six — by the midpoint of the first quarter. Oh, and he only followed that impressive start with another three. They don’t call him KDTrey, for nothing.

Jusuf Nurkic’s absence due to injury did not affect Portland’s play one iota. McCollum — as would be the case the entire night — picked up the slack and answered Durant’s three with one of his own. On the other end, Curry missed a three-point attempt — tragic. Oh, but JaVale McGee tipped it in, for two. The Green-McGee tandum would keep the offense moving until the buzzer: a late-quarter sneak pass to McGee from Green, who finished the play with a slam, a late three-pointer by Green, and a bogus foul call on McGee after he blocked Lillard’s drive to the basket emphatically (all-ball block but a foul called on the incidental contact between McGee’s hand and the top of Lillard’s head).

But while Durant was yanking down rebounds, stealing, blocking and shooting like there was no tomorrow — and McGee and Green were getting it done on both ends of the floor — the team, overall, was turning the ball over with such frequency one might guess their chocolate Easter bunnies had been laced with Kahlua. By the time the buzzer sounded, the team had tallied seven turnovers and Curry had picked up two fouls.

1st Quarter Score: 27-31, Golden State.

Second quarter

Apparently one of the only teams that can keep up with the Warriors’ quick pace, the Trail Blazers entered the second quarter, um, blazin’. Again, it was McCollum who had the hot hand, scoring on Portland’s first two possessions, to even the score at 31 all.

Meanwhile, the Warriors continued where they left off in their pastime of collecting turnovers. In the first 15 minutes of the game, Golden State had picked up nine turnovers and the Blazers had dropped 13 free-throws. For the Warriors to secure a win, this would have to change ... but not before McCollum, up to the same tricks, dropped a three-pointer to give Portland its first lead of the night.

And that’s when Ian Clark showed up.

After getting the crowd roaring with a deep three, Clark decided to break up a Blazers’ play for a steal, get out on the fast break and finish with a layup.

The second quarter would wind to a close with some Kahlua-laced chocolate bunny dribbling and passing from Curry, almost total silence from Klay Thompson, McCollum still playing out of his mind and he and Lillard still carrying the load for a confident Portland team, testy tempers flaring between Maurice Harkless and Durant and Shaun Livingston and Lillard, and the Warriors now with 10 turnovers.

2nd Quarter Score: 56-56, tie game.

Third quarter

Portland came out of halftime with an even zippier pace and more confident execution. But Golden State countered that by getting Curry involved in the lane, where he’d drive to the basket for layups or grab give-and-go passes resulting in layups.

Despite Pachulia’s confident start to the game with the pull-up jumper, he looked like a fish out of water at the start of the third, seeming absolutely confused with the ball in his hands. The Warriors mixing up the offense by having Curry play under the basket led Portland’s defenders to look for him there which, naturally, freed him up on the perimeter. He dropped in a beautiful, crowd-approved three-pointer … only to have it waived off because of a foul away from the ball, by Pachulia. (Given the number of starts for an entire season, minus some time sidelined with injury, it would seem Pachulia would have more confidence operating within the Warriors’ schemes by now — and expect the ball and know what to do with it.)

The third quarter is usually when the Warriors turn up the heat on offense, especially Mr. Reigning Two-Time MVP. But, against Portland in this first-round game, the third quarter was all about defense, highlighted by Green making a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber block. Even though the Warriors didn’t score on the play, Green’s emphatic refusal to let the Blazers score had to, at the very least, frustrate them.

With four minutes left in the third, a hustle play by JaVale McGee kept the ball alive after a Thompson miss, which led to a Curry three. After a timeout, a McGee block got the ball to Kevin Durant, who drove to the basket for two points and a point at the stripe. With 53 seconds left in the quarter, McGee headed to the bench to a well-deserved roaring ovation from the crowd.

But Portland ended the quarter strong, with a two-point bucket and shot at the line by Pat Connaughton to even the score. Curry finished the quarter with three fouls.

3rd Quarter Score: 88-88, tie game.

Fourth quarter

Curry started the game on the bench due to foul trouble. But in the first 2:30 minutes of the fourth quarter, the team managed to push the score to a seven-point lead that was helped greatly by a Clark three.

Thompson, who had been quiet most of the game, broke up a Blazers’ play that led to a bucket for him on the other end. A few plays later, Clark drove to the basket for a layup, got the foul call and sashayed to the charity stripe. Curry, still on the bench, earned his keep as cheerleader: standing and waving his arms to get the crowed into it. (Also on the sideline, Durant could be seen getting treatment on his left leg from Chelsea Lane.)

With eight minutes to go in the final quarter, Golden State smothered Portland on defense, forced a shot-clock violation and extended the lead to 11.

With seven minutes left in the game, five Golden State players were in double figures and the team had completed an impressive 13-2 run.

Still on a quest for well-earned and long overdue DPOY honors, Green smacked down a vicious block as Damian Lillard drove to the hoop for a basket that was not to be. Instead, Golden State got the ball and Durant got a bucket on the other end.

With about three minutes left in the period, Curry was up to five fouls, proving that the superstar treatment he gets on the court — despite being the best shooter on the planet — is zero, zip, nada. (If certain players have beef with him, they should consider the way Curry gets rookie treatment from the officials while their UN-level dialogue with the refs seems to curry favor for them, allowing travel to Egypt and back every game, without a foul call.)

By the end, it was defense from Durant, shots finally falling for Thompson and a monster block by Green — followed by a flex-and-shimmy combo only Money Green could get away with — that would seal the deal.

Final Score: 109-121, Golden State.

Final thoughts

Draymond Green was dominant on both sides of the ball. Sure, his prowess is on the defensive end — yes, worthy of unequivocal, unanimous DPOY honors — but he greatly impacted all aspects of the game, coming up just one assist shy of a triple-double.

And when you consider that the rest of the team looked like this ...

Golden State Warriors, via Twitter.

Rip City has its work cut out.

But this is the playoffs and no win is guaranteed. The Warriors should expect Portland to come out swinging in Game 2. But, barring an unforeseen catastrophe for Golden State, the Blazers will only be able to pull out a victory if they expand the offense to include players not named C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, and develop a defensive scheme that goes beyond telling Draymond Green he needs to do more calf raises.

Then again, personal insults by Dame & Co. could be the key to a Warriors’ sweep of the series. So, yeah — keep talking, Lillard.

Game 2 is Wednesday April 19th at 7:30 PST, on TNT.


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