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Analysis: Warriors dominate the second half in 114-111 win over Portland

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Trailing by as many as 17 points, the Warriors storm back, outscoring the Trail Blazers 64-46 after halftime, to earn the victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After their win in Game 1 of the 2019 Western Conference Finals, the Warriors looked like they were ready to roll over the Portland Trail Blazers on their way to another NBA Finals. Though the Warriors would be without Kevin Durant, they still looked like the better team and a Game 2 win was a foregone conclusion. But the Trail Blazers had other designs, playing much better in Game 2 and leading by as many as 17 points in the first half on their way to a 15-point halftime advantage. But in the second half the real Warriors showed up, controlling the game on offense and defense to get the 114-111 win and secure a 2-0 series lead for the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Flipping the switch in the second half

Thursday night’s game was a tale of two halves as the Warriors’ effort in the first half left quite a bit to be desired. On offense, they were careless with the basketball, turning it over 10 times, which led to 18 points for the visiting Trail Blazers. When they held onto the ball, the Warriors had a hard time doing anything with it while going 3/13 from long distance over the game’s first two quarters and scoring just 50 points.

While their Warriors’ offense never got into a rhythm, their defense was uninspired and unenthusiastic. They allowed the Trail Blazers to score 65 points in that first half, going 11/22 from three-point range. After holding them mostly in check for most of Game 1, the Trail Blazers were able to get free to make shots in that first half of Thursday night’s game. The Trail Blazers were led by CJ McCollum who scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half, scoring nearly as much as he did in all of Game 1 in the first half of Game 2.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
CJ McCollum was able to get rolling in the first half of Game 2 but the Warriors did a much better job defending him in the second half of their win on Thursday night.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Things were very different in the second half. The Warriors came out of halftime playing with much more intensity and, perhaps more importantly, started making shots to go with that renewed focus. The Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 39-24 in that third quarter to completely erase the Trail Blazers’ fifteen-point halftime advantage.

Leading the way for the Warriors in that quarter was Klay Thompson who scored 13 of his 24 points in the third, including these three points to cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to five points.

That third quarter scoring surge turned what looked like it might be a blowout loss for the Warriors into a game that wouldn’t be decided until the final seconds.

While Thompson jump-started the Warriors’ offense in the second half, it was Draymond Green (naturally) who led a better defensive effort from the Warriors.

Even though he played much of the second half in foul trouble, picking up his fourth foul with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, Green terrorized the Trail Blazers, stifling their offensive attack as the Trail Blazers shot 38.5% from the field in the second half.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green was fired up in Game 2, especially in the second half, and his defense secured a win for the Warriors.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It was another great game from Green, who has been stellar throughout the 2019 postseason. Green finished the game with 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots to go with his 16 points and 7 assists. One of those blocks came late in the game (after Green had picked up his fifth foul) and prevented the Trail Blazers from pushing their lead to double digits.

While Green played well throughout the second half as the Warriors held the Trail Blazers to just 46 points over that stretch, it was Andre Iguodala who came up with the play of the night. With twelve seconds remaining in the game and the Warriors leading by three points, Iguodala (cleanly) stripped Damian Lillard to secure the win for the defending champions.

As they did in Games 5 and 6 against the Houston Rockets, the Warriors found a way to win, coming up with the big plays in the crucial moments to secure a victory. Even if the Warriors did, as head coach Steve Kerr put it in his postgame comments, “stole that game,” the sign of a champion is that ability to get a victory even when things are not going your way. That’s what the Warriors did on Thursday night.

Important minutes from Looney and Bell

Just like they did in Game 1, the Warriors’ bench played a role in this win. Game 2 was yet another impressive game for Kevon Looney in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Looney started the second half with the first unit, taking Andrew Bogut’s place on the court, helping the Warriors charge back to get this win.

In a playoff career-high 29 minutes, Looney scored 14 points while grabbing 7 rebounds. 3 of those rebounds came on the offensive glass, giving the Warriors opportunities to score some second-chance points.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
The Trail Blazers’ front court couldn’t slow down Kevon Looney in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals and that cost them a win.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Looney finished the game with a plus/minus of +8, second best on the Warriors for Game 2. Once again, Looney showed that he’s a big who can deal with having to guard elite scorers like Lillard and McCollum when he’s switched onto them. Looney’s play throughout the playoffs has surprised even his biggest believers as he has become not just a good player but a vital contributor to this Warriors team.

In addition to Looney, the Warriors also got a good performance from Jordan Bell. After being trapped on the bench for the first two series of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Bell got a chance to play in Game 2 and more than made the most of it.

Bell scored a playoff career-high 11 points in Thursday night’s win. Most of those points came from Bell being active and crashing the boards (he finished the game with 2 offensive rebounds), overwhelming an undersized and unprepared Trail Blazers’ front court.

Bell’s energy (and points that came from that energetic play) were crucial to the Warriors getting the victory, something that not many people would have been expecting to say about a Warriors game just a few weeks ago.

Steph being Steph

While the defense and Iguodala strip was the focus and the bench play turned heads, this win doesn’t happen without Stephen Curry playing like... well Stephen Curry. Curry scored 37 points in Game 2, his second-consecutive game scoring 35+ points. Curry wasn’t particularly efficient from long distance in Game 2 as he went 4/14 from three-point range in the win. But he came up with some big shots in that third quarter, including this one as the Warriors cut into the sizable Trail Blazers’ lead.

Though his outside shot wasn’t falling with the regularity to which we’ve become accustomed, Curry still made a point of attacking the basket and being active, whether driving for layups like this one or by drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line (Curry attempted eleven free throws in Game 2 and made all eleven of them).

But it wasn’t just Curry’s scoring as he finished the game with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. One of those assists came on this play in the fourth quarter that put the Warriors up by three points with twelve seconds remaining.

The gravity Curry commands can be seen on this play. The Trail Blazers are so focused on Curry and what he’s going to do that they don’t pay attention to Green, who cuts to the basket and gets the easy layup to give the Warriors the three-point lead.

Some blemishes in an otherwise inspiring win

To be certain, this wasn’t a perfect game by the Warriors and there are things to work on heading into Game 3 on Saturday night in Portland. Though they were able to overcome their sloppy play in the first half, the Warriors will need to be careful with the ball and not give the Trail Blazers extra opportunities to score.

Though they limited the damage Lillard did (he scored 23 points on 6/16 shooting in the Game 2 loss) and put the clamps on McCollum in the second half (he scored just 6 points in the second half after that impressive start), they’ll need to pay more attention to Seth Curry if they want to make quick work of the Trail Blazers in this series.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Game 2 gave us many Steph vs. Seth moments and though the older brother got the win, the younger Curry played well.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The younger Curry brother played well in Game 2, scoring 16 points as his three-point shooting gave the visitors a much-needed offensive boost, going 4/7 from long distance on Thursday night.

He’ll definitely be getting Green’s attention during Game 3 of this series.

Now things shift up to Oregon for Games 3 and 4, starting with Game 3 on Saturday night at the Moda Center. They won’t be getting Durant back for either of those games but if they play with the same energy and intensity that they played the second half of Game 2, they might not need him.