After their convincing win over the Phoenix Suns the Warriors sought to go into the All-Star break on a high note by traveling up to Portland and defeated the Trail Blazers. While the game’s second half was quite exciting and we witnessed an epic duel between two All-Stars, ultimately the Warriors did not make the plays down the stretch to earn the victory. Between the lackluster play of the first quarter and the missed opportunities of the fourth quarter, the Warriors let this game slip away as they lost in Portland 123-117.
Another poor Warriors first quarter allows the Trail Blazers to take an early lead
The crisp play the Warriors displayed against the Suns was not present in the first quarter against the Trail Blazers. Turnovers were once again a major issue as the Warriors turned it over six times in the game’s opening quarter. The other recurring issue for the Warriors was that they let another point guard get off to a hot start. Damian Lillard, who will play in his third All-Star Game this weekend, scored 18 points in the first quarter. Between the scoring of Lillard and the struggling offense of the Warriors, the Trail Blazers pushed the lead to as much as twenty points in the first.
While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson scuffled out of the gate offensively, Kevin Durant came out strong, scoring 14 points in the first quarter (while all other Warriors players scored 13 points). After putting together pretty pedestrian games against the Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, it was promising to see Durant get off to such a good start.
The Warriors’ deficit at the end of the quarter was 13 but it could have been a lot larger were it not for a quick 6-0 run by the Warriors in the final seconds of the first. This little run included this layup by Curry at the buzzer to cut into the Trail Blazers’ lead and gave the Warriors’ point guard his first points of the night.
Down to the Wire - Curry's 1st points of the game pic.twitter.com/cUKrafWzCD— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 15, 2018
Cold shooting prevents the Warriors from getting closer in the second
The run that began at the end of the first quarter continued into the second as the veteran/”dino” unit came in and got defensive stops and converted offensive opportunities. The Warriors cut the lead to just eight points and looked to go on an extended run to perhaps erase the Trail Blazers’ advantage.
But the Trail Blazers responded to those Warriors runs and held a 15-point lead at one point in the second quarter. Either the Warriors got a stop and then did not convert on the offensive end or they allowed the Trail Blazers to score after they made a basket, preventing them from making any real progress.
While Lillard dominated the first quarter for the home team, it was CJ McCollum who had the impressive second quarter, scoring 9 of his 29 points in the second. The impressive offensive play by the Trail Blazers’ backcourt was perhaps the main reason they were able to be in control for most of the first half.
Another reason the Warriors trailed early in this game was because they were not making their three-pointers. In the first half, they shot just 20% from long distance, with Curry making his first three-pointer of the game with two minutes left to go in the second quarter.
Curry with his 1st three of the game! pic.twitter.com/T0UjLWxv31— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 15, 2018
Any time the Warriors are missing three-pointers at that rate, you know things are going to be difficult, especially against an explosive offensive tandem like Lillard and McCollum.
Outside of Durant, who had twenty points in the first half to match Lillard’s twenty, the Warriors could not make a shot in the first half as they found themselves with a twelve-point deficit to climb out of at halftime.
18 points in the third quarter for Durant closes the gap
The Warriors came out with a different look to start the third quarter, going small by putting Nick Young in the starting lineup instead of Zaza Pachulia. The move paid off as the Warriors cut the Trail Blazers lead to just a single point in the third quarter. Durant played an enormous role in erasing the Trail Blazers’ advantage, converting two four-point plays early in the third.
Durant ended the quarter with 38 points, an impressive offensive display and one that was profoundly necessary for the Warriors given the offensive struggles of Curry and Thompson. The 18 points that Durant scored in that third quarter was also his highest point total in any quarter so far this season.
Another reason the Warriors were able to cut into the Trail Blazers lead in that third quarter was that the defense was improved. This was in part due to the decision to go smaller and forego the traditional big man in Pachulia for a quicker lineup.Playing against a team like the Trail Blazers, whose best players are smaller ones like Lillard, McCollum, and Shabazz Napier, it made sense to go to the slightly undersized lineup to keep up with them.
Watching this game, I couldn’t help but think this would have been a good spot to play Patrick McCaw. While Young is a better offensive player than McCaw (though not on Wednesday night as he went scoreless), he is definitely lacking on the defensive end while McCaw will usually play good defense. If McCaw were out there as part of those smaller, quicker units, I wonder if they could have slowed down the Trail Blazers offense just a little bit more and that might have affected the outcome of this game.
Though they played better in the third quarter, the Warriors still had trouble slowing down Lillard, who scored 15 points in the third quarter and continued the trend of playing exceptionally well against the team from his hometown of Oakland. Between Lillard’s 15 third-quarter points and McCollum’s 9, the Trail Blazers were able to keep the Warriors at bay and hold a five-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
That said, it was another impressive third quarter for the Warriors, which continues to be the point in the game where they like to do most of their damage.
Warriors win the third quarter by seven, enter the All-Star break exactly +300 in 58 third quarters this season -- the NBA's only +300 quarter.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 15, 2018
Warriors come all the way back, fall just short of getting the win
The exciting play of the third quarter continued into the fourth as the teams traded baskets early in the quarter before the Warriors tied the game on a Curry three-pointer with a little over seven minutes left in the game.
The Warriors were able to erase the Trail Blazers lead because the defense play of Draymond Green picked up. In the second half of Wednesday night’s game, Green looked like the Defensive Player of the Year we saw last season. During that portion of the game, Green blocked 3 shots and pulled down 8 defensive rebounds, all while battling against the much-bigger Jusuf Nurkic.
Though Nurkic finished the game with 17 points and 13 rebounds, the bulk of that came in the first half. In the second half, when Green was asserting himself as a defensive force, the Trail Blazers’ big man was not as imposing.
Green finished Wednesday night’s game with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists, but it was his defensive effort that was most impressive against the Trail Blazers, giving the Warriors a chance to win the game.
Best Draymond Green defensive performance since he was everywhere in Detroit a few months back.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 15, 2018
The game had a back-and-forth, playoff-like quality to it that made it all the more entertaining. This was certainly enhanced by the presence of the great Bill Walton on the ESPN telecast. There are few people associated with the NBA like Walton and it made the game a whole lot more fun and interesting to hear him call the game.
The remainder of the fourth saw the Trail Blazers go on small runs to push their leads to six or eight points only to see the Warriors answer to close the gap. More often than not, it was Durant who answered, carrying the Warriors on a night when everyone else was struggling. Durant ended Wednesday night’s game with 50 points, his highest point total since joining the Warriors and the fifth 50-point game of his career.
Durant lost his shoe and now has a cool 50 points! pic.twitter.com/pHeKnl0Fzu— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 15, 2018
It was an impressive offensive display for Durant and one the Warriors needed every one of his points to keep thing close. Both Curry and Thompson played poorly against the Trail Blazers, each scoring just 17 points while missing quite a few wide-open shots that they normally make.
A key factor to this game was the discrepancy in backcourt scoring. The Warriors backcourt of Curry and Thompson scored just 34 points while the Trail Blazers’ duo of Lillard and McCollum ended with 73 points. Lillard finished the game against the Warriors with 44 points, his third-straight impressive offensive performance, while McCollum scored 29.
Ultimately it was that cold shooting that doomed the Warriors as they had good looks at shots in the game’s final seconds. Durant missed an open midrange shot (where he’s been automatic this season) that would have tied the game and Thompson missed a wide-open three-pointer that would have given the Warrior the lead with 22 seconds left in the game. Though there would be some drama in the final seconds (including a Durant three-pointer waved off because the slimmest portion of his heel was out of bounds), the Trail Blazers hung on and picked up the victory.
Despite Durant’s 50 points, the Warriors were unable to overcome the early deficit, their poor shooting, 13 Trail Blazers’ offensive rebounds that allowed for second-chance points, and just 16 points (and no made three-pointers) from their bench. The Warriors’ loss also gave the Houston Rockets a half-game advantage in the Western Conference as they sit in first place heading into the All-Star break. Hopefully these first-half deficits that they can’t come all the way back from will be a thing of the past for the Warriors after the break, as it appears that the race for the number one seed in the Western Conference is going to be a hard-fought and exciting one.
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