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Warriors destroy Blazers with team defense in Durant’s absence

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With former MVP Kevin Durant out, Warriors unleash potential Finals MVP JaVale McGee in blowout win over the Blazers.

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

Three Warriors didn’t play, including former MVP Kevin Durant, and the trio of Curry-Green-Thompson shot poorly from the field in Game 2 of the team’s first-round matchup against the Blazers.

The Warriors won the game by 29.

It was the unexpected two-way production from Patrick McCaw, JaVale McGee and Ian Clark that helped put the Blazers away. With Durant out of the lineup, Curry started the game aggressively searching for his shot. He had a rough shooting night but still managed a plus-32 in 31 minutes.

Via ESPN:

“You've got to be aggressive,” Curry said. “Obviously you’re missing 25 points, 26 points [out of] the lineup. So [if] the shot is available you kind of do it a different way. But tonight we didn’t really get it going much or consistently throughout the game. We had some dry spots, but we won the game with our defense tonight.”

Golden State is lauded for its brilliant offensive performances, but its defense has been a hallmark of the Warriors’ rise. They’ve been top five in defensive rating each of the last four years. The Warriors’ defensive rating shockingly improved during the lanky Durant’s extended absence in the regular season, perhaps due to a sharper attention to detail without the team’s safety blanket. On Wednesday, the Warriors were also without the lengthy, cerebral Shaun Livingston, and they still displayed defensive dominance against the explosive Blazers’ backcourt.

C.J. McCollum had 27 first-half points on Sunday, but Klay Thompson put on the clamps in Game 2. The Blazer guard had difficulty getting to his spots and creating space, missing his first five shots. The Blazers shot 3-of-11 for six points with Thompson as the primary defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information . The Blazers as a whole shot 6-of-22 and turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, which ended with a score of 33-17 for the Warriors.

To no one’s surprise, TNT analyst Charles Barkley made an anti-Warriors comment during halftime about the team’s supposed lack of defense. Golden State had a suffocating 86.8 defensive rating when Barkley made those comments, but perhaps Chuck’s inaccurate drivel inspired Golden State to perform even better on that end of the floor in the second half. Barkley predicted a second-half shootout between both teams, yet the Blazers only scored 12 points in the third quarter on 6-23 shooting while committing seven more turnovers.

Golden State led 83-58 entering the fourth quarter.

Draymond Green played out of his mind defensively in Game 1, but last night’s defense was more of a team effort. The big men did an excellent job of blitzing pick-and-rolls so as to not allow any space for Lillard or McCollum to get their shots off. According to ESPN Stats & Info , just one of their combined 34 field-goal attempts in Game 2 was uncontested. After scoring a combined 75 points on 28-of-54 shooting in Game 1, Lillard and McCollum finished with just 23 points on 9-of-34 shooting last night.

While the Warriors’ bigs were helping out on the perimeter, the wing guys were protecting the rim. A few minutes after McCaw impressively erased a Lillard layup, Thompson did his best Green impression by swatting a Lillard dunk in transition (why does he keep trying to dunk on these guys?).

After three quarters, the Warriors forced 17 turnovers and had a stifling 73.4 defensive rating. Golden State led by 25 and the game was essentially over. Although Curry (6-of-18 shooting) and Thompson (6-of-17) struggled from the field, the center spot, considered a weak position for the Warriors, kept the team afloat offensively.

Zaza Pachulia finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and he even made a layup. However, JaVale McGee was the player of the night, with 15 points on a Warriors’ playoff record seven shots without a miss in just 13 minutes of playing time. David West went 3-of-5, and this center group comprised of minimum contracts combined for 33 points on 15-20 shooting in a playoff game.

Portland had no answer for playoff McGee, who appears to be a different beast than that of the regular season. The athletic big man punished the Blazers’ small-ball lineups with several lob jams, and his rim protection was disruptive. McGee has routinely been criticized for his lack of awareness throughout his career, but he had Ron Adams to thank for his improvement after the game.

Leave it to Golden State to turn McGee into an impactful playoff contributor and blow out its opponent with a former MVP on the sidelines.