In the second game of their first-round series against the Portland Trailblazers, the Golden State Warriors reminded everyone why they're the most dangerous team in the world.
There was a chance that this game could have been a nail-biter with Kevin Durant sitting out due to a calf strain, along with key bench players Shaun Livingston (finger) and Matt Barnes (foot). However in the end the Warriors locked in defensively and everyone on the bench stepped up to make up for the losses.
Defend our ground
The Warriors new playoff slogan may have been mocked by Cleveland fans for it's lack of originality but they lived up to it tonight. The first possession of the game saw Klay Thompson double dribble his way into a turnover and things looked shaky as the Warriors stumbled out of the gate. Zaza Pachulia was the only one effective on offense; he scored two baskets as the Warriors went down 9-4. Then the Warriors went on a mini-run of 11-0 thanks to some hot shooting and solid individual efforts defensively.
By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors were up 33-17.
Portland reacted well to the early deficit despite some highlight plays like this beautifully simplistic give and go between David West and Ian Clark.
This is what it means to play fast pic.twitter.com/tBU7bFRptZ— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 20, 2017
Despite C.J. McCollum making only two of his seven field goal attempts following his brilliant performance in game one, the Trailblazers still managed to chip away at the lead and bring the game back to within one point.
It was time for the rookie Patrick McCaw to step up; Coach Steve Kerr had given him the nod to start tonight in place of Durant and McCaw didn't disappoint. McCaw swished a three to push the lead back up to four.
West netted some easy baskets as Portland tried desperately to trap Curry, leaving a lot of open space in the middle of the key. McCaw remained aggressive making a layup and suddenly all of Portland’s hard work was for nothing as the Warriors led 55-46 at the end of the first half.
And things only got worse for the Trailblazers.
Putting the D in delusional
Charles Barkley had a lot to say at half time about the Warriors defense or lack thereof, claiming that neither Golden State nor Portland play good defense. Fortunately, fans on social media were quick to correct him as was Kenny Smith.
"Neither one of these teams is good defensively" Charles Barkley says about the #2 ranked defense in the league— Daddy Damien (@DameIsDead) April 20, 2017
Personally, I no longer watch the TNT halftime shows, but I have a feeling the Warriors might have as they entered the third quarter and methodically shut down the Trail Blazers.
Strength in numbers
Golden State started the second half with a 7-0 run, a questionable foul from Meyers Leonard was the only sign of defense from Portland. The Warriors played that unyielding aggressive defense that the fans have come to love and that most pundits tend to overlook.
The difference maker tonight though was JaVale McGee; the journeyman big man looked like a true seasoned veteran coming off the bench and giving the team valuable minutes. The Warriors seem to be a perfect fit for McGee; it's a symbiotic relationship. They cover a lot of his flaws and amplify his strengths while he provides them with some much-needed energy, hustle and rim protection. He finished the game with 15 points (on 100% shooting from the field), five rebounds, four blocks and one steal in just 13 minutes of play.
Make no mistake the Warriors won this game as a unit; there was no 50-point game for Stephen Curry or 37 point quarter for Thompson. The Warriors made 40 field goals and 31 of those were assisted on. Everyone on the team had at least one point and the bench combined for 50 points on the night.
McCaw played his heart out as the replacement starter and West was superb as a playmaker while playing some solid defense in the post. Curry lead the team in plus/minus with +32 on a night where Coach Kerr’s mantra of "strength in numbers" actually seemed to mean something. Defensively, the Warriors managed to hold the Trail Blazers to 33 percent shooting on the night.
The next game in the series is on Saturday night at 7:30pm. The Trail Blazers will be hoping for a return to form for their backcourt, but with the likely return of Durant, the possibility of a sweep is looking more and more realistic.