The Golden State Warriors defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 119-97 in their final preseason game, finishing their exhibition slate undefeated. After four games defined by breakout performances from Jordan Poole and the easy integration of offseason acquisitions Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. into Golden State’s rotation, it was an old-fashioned Stephen Curry explosion that led them to victory on Friday.
While the Blazers sat star guard Damian Lillard, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr opted to use Friday’s matchup as a final tuneup for the regular season. Sticking with their entire starting lineup, though, did not yield fantastic early results.
Golden State struggled early on both sides of the ball. The Trail Blazers easily found their way to the paint throughout the first quarter, scoring 27 points despite shooting just 2-of-11 from three. The Warriors' offense flowed well, but shots did not fall. In an offense possibly more reliant on three-point shooting than any team before in franchise history, that’s going to be a recipe for some long slumps. They trailed 27-17 at the end of the first quarter.
Portland continued holding a double-digit lead well into the second quarter, and then the meaninglessness of a preseason game almost became the story of the game. Curry landed awkwardly on a three-point shot halfway through the second quarter and walked gingerly back on defense. Dub Nation collectively held its breath.
Then, on the next possession, Curry dribbled with ease through the Blazer defense and finished a layup with ease. Warriors’ anxiety dissipated, and instead of a game story about Golden State’s fate hanging in the status of Curry’s injury status, it’s about a different story that has followed Steph throughout his career: demolishing the Trail Blazers.
In a manner of minutes, Portland’s lead evaporated and the Warriors entered halftime with a 55-51 lead. Curry had 21 points and was the only Warrior who had reached double-digits.
Coming out of the half, Curry was still firing on all cylinders. Curry played the entire third quarter and dropped 20 points, carrying Golden State to an explosive 43-point quarter. Out of nowhere, the Warriors were en route to another preseason blowout victory.
Curry has had his moments this preseason, but he had not stood alone until Friday when the MVP chants echoed throughout Chase Center in the third quarter. Yes, it’s the preseason. It does nothing to stop how fun it is to watch.
We could take Curry’s night highlight by highlight, dissecting the beauty of each play. Luckily, the Warriors put it all together in a postgame highlight package worth the couple of minutes it will take to enjoy instead.
Overshadowed by Curry’s explosion, though, were some quiet performances from other Warriors’ contributors.
A slow first half from Poole was easily his worst stretch of the preseason. His jump shot never started falling on Friday and lacked aggressiveness driving to the hoop early, particularly with Curry on the floor. With Curry on the bench to start the fourth quarter, though, Poole put together a robust offensive spurt that put the game out of reach and carried him to a solid 16-point night.
There was no late-game surge for small forward Andrew Wiggins, however. The preseason finished without a good performance from Wiggins, and he again looked out of place in the Warriors offense, especially as Poole has proven he’s clearly the second-best (healthy) scorer on the roster. Wiggins finished with eight points, four rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers on 3-of-9 shooting (1-of-4 from three).
Still, those concerns are for another time. Wiggins was the only Warriors player with a below-average preseason performance, with nearly everyone in the rotation flashing at least one game of fantastic contributions. Even with Wiggins’ struggles, Golden State’s offense looks more dynamic than it has in years, and most importantly, Curry remains one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA.
Curry will turn 34 next March. It’s been more than three years since he last won an NBA title, a span longer than most NBA careers. Yet, all of that pressure and expectation falls away whenever he takes over a game. With the regular season right around the corner, Curry made sure to hypnotize Warriors fans right before the games started to matter.
Yes, celebrate Jordan Poole’s developments. Absolutely enjoy Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter’s floor spacing. But don’t forget who makes these games matter. It’s the player who dropped 41 points in a preseason game without having to play a second of the fourth quarter. As has been true for all of the Warriors dynasty, everything starts with Steph Curry.