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Analysis: Stephen Curry’s three-point shooting leads Warriors to 116-94 win over Portland

The two-time MVP scores 36 points while shooting 9/15 from long distance as the Warriors take the opening game of the Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers began on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. The Warriors were once again without the services of Kevin Durant, who would miss his second-consecutive game while recovering from a calf injury. The Trail Blazers were worn down as well, as they needed all seven games to eliminate the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, culminating with an exhausting and intense Game 7 on Sunday afternoon.

The first game of the Western Conference Finals wasn’t the most well-executed one. You could tell this was a matchup between two teams coming off of emotional and exhausting wins in their previous series. The teams combine for 35 turnovers as both squads occasionally lapsed into sloppy or silly play.

But even though they didn’t play their best game, the Warriors took control of Game 1 in the first quarter and never really gave it back on their way to a 116-94 victory that has them three wins away from a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Curry and Thompson lead the three-point barrage

After being hounded by the Rockets in that emotionally-charged Western Conference Semifinals, Stephen Curry had more room to breathe and work in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers. Curry took full advantage of playing against a more, shall we say, relaxed defense and dominated Tuesday night’s game.

Curry scored a game-high 36 points against the Trail Blazers while shooting 9/15 from three-point range. Those nine makes from long distance tied Curry’s career-high for most three-pointers made in a playoff game (he also had nine makes from beyond the arc in Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals). This game was also Curry’s 27th career game with at least 9 three-pointers.

One of those three-pointers came on this play in the second quarter that sent the Warriors into halftime with a nine-point lead.

The Trail Blazers didn’t have an answer defensively for Curry (or any of the Warriors players, really). Too often, they left him open on a switch, which isn’t the best way to defend the greatest shooter in NBA history. The Trail Blazers’ big men (especially Enes Kanter) are just not equipped to deal with him and that means trouble for the Trail Blazers in the rest of this series.

Klay Thompson complimented his Splash Brother’s scoring in Game 1, scoring 26 points of his own. Twelve of Thompson’s points game in the fourth quarter as the Warriors pushed a 6-point lead at the end of three quarters to a 22-point one when the final buzzer sounded.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson was fired up in the Warriors’ Game 1 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, especially after throwing down a fourth-quarter dunk.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Prolific and abundant shooting from beyond the arc was not limited to just Curry and Thompson. The entire Warriors’ lineup was dialed in from three-point range. They went 17/33 from long distance against the Trail Blazers, their best shooting performance from three-point range thus far in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

Draymond brings the energy, Dubs defense contains Lillard and McCollum

As it is so often the case, when Curry and Thompson are scoring one can find Draymond Green doing all the other things to get the Warriors a win. Green finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. The last of those points came on this three-pointer, which got Green fired up like only a three-point make can.

Green’s energy was noticeable throughout the game. Green frequently led the fast break, sprinting down the court to start the offensive attack. After such a challenging and arduous series against the Rockets (and having to play so many minutes in that closeout Game 6), one might have expected Green to be a little fatigued, to take it down a little bit. That was certainly not the case in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Green was also key to a good defensive effort by the Warriors who held the Trail Blazers to just 94 points and 36.1% shooting from the field. Green ended Monday’s win with 3 blocks and 2 steals. The Warriors forced the Trail Blazers into 21 turnovers, which resulted in 31 points. Some of that might have been the fatigue following their seven-game series against the Nuggets, but quite a few of those Trail Blazers’ turnovers were because of the Warriors’ defense.

The Warriors were also able to limit the damage that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum could do in Game 1. Lillard scored just 19 points on 4/12 shooting while McCollum scored 17 points while shooting 7/19 from the field in the loss. Curry, Thompson, Green, and Andre Iguodala all took turns defending the Trail Blazers’ impressive backcourt and kept them from playing well on Tuesday night.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game One
Andre Iguodala, along with the rest of the Warriors, did a good job defending Damian Lillard in the Game 1 victory.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

While the Trail Blazers didn’t get much from their two best players, they did get contributions from Maurice Harkless and Rodney Hood. Harkless scored 17 points, with 7 of those points coming in the first quarter as he was able to get open with all of the Warriors’ defensive attention focused on Lillard and McCollum. Hood, who was a game-time decision, scored 17 points in the loss while going 2/5 from three-point range. But if the Warriors can slow down the Trail Blazers’ backcourt like they did on Tuesday night, they will live with their opponent’s secondary players make a few buckets here and there.

Jerebko and Cook give Warriors good minutes off the bench

While they had to shorten their rotations for most of the series against the Rockets, the Warriors were able to give their bench players proper playing time in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers. Given the opportunity, those bench players produced and they accounted for 36 points in the Game 1 victory.

Not surprisingly, Kevon Looney played another solid game by scoring 6 points, grabbing 2 offensive rebounds, getting 3 steals and 1 block in his nearly 25 minutes of action. But that’s become the norm for the Warriors and isn’t all that surprising.

The productive minutes the Warriors got out of Jonas Jerebko and Quinn Cook were a bit more surprising. Jerebko played nearly 15 minutes against the Trail Blazers and scored 9 points.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game One
Jonas Jerebko gave the Warriors a boost off the bench in their win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This season, Jerebko has been a player who was able to stay on the court and get minutes against this Trail Blazers team (something I noted in our roundtable preview of this series). While he would be a liability against some teams, Jerebko’s deficiencies don’t hurt the Warriors as much when they’re playing against the Trail Blazers.

Cook scored 8 points in his nearly 13 minutes of action on Tuesday night. Cook did all of his damage in the fourth quarter, scoring all 8 of his points in the game’s final frame. Three of those points came on this shot that pushed the Warriors’ lead up to eleven points.

Being able to play Cook in this series, and thus giving Curry time to rest on the bench, would be an enormous positive.