For 24 minutes we saw why the Golden State Warriors have had perhaps the most frustrating season in the NBA. By the time you had turned the TV on, they were already losing 8-2 to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The execution wasn’t there, but more worryingly, the effort wasn’t, either. They were repeatedly beat down the court in transition, even after made baskets. They were outhustled on the glass and for loose balls. They settled for stepback threes while the Blazers attacked the rim relentlessly.
Led by Damian Lillard, playing some of the best basketball of his career, the Blazers strung together an 18-4 first-quarter run, pushing the lead to 17, before settling for a tidy 41-27 lead as the teams headed to the second quarter.
And in the second quarter it was more of the same. The Warriors stayed flatter than Kyrie Irving’s interpretation of the earth, and the energized Blazers pushed the lead to 23. A mini run by the Warriors to end the half was only enough to pull them to within 17 points at the break.
Maybe it’s just not their year, you thought as you re-upped your beer for a second half you were already dreading.
And then for 24 minutes we saw why the Warriors are still in win-now mode. Why they haven’t given up on winning this season. Why other teams still fear them.
After a few possessions of sloppiness, the third quarter Warriors — even sans Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins — announced their arrival. Jordan Poole put on a show, doing all the things that made the Warriors give him a contract well into the nine figures this offseason. Klay Thompson picked apart Portland’s defense, reminding you why the Dubs gave him nearly $200 million knowing full well that he had to first recover from a torn ACL.
Newfound offensive aggression led to Lillard picking up three fouls on just a few possessions, giving him four for the game. The defense sensed Portland’s panic and clamped shut. They went on an 18-2 run. Jonathan Kuminga lit the arena on fire.
HOLY JK HAMMER pic.twitter.com/JkwXzX7Yz8— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 1, 2023
And then, finally and fittingly on a Thompson three, the Dubs found the lead.
KLAY FOR THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/X6mfUdUsUW— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) March 1, 2023
The game felt over. You could see in the Warriors body language that they knew they would win. You could see on the Blazers faces that they knew the same.
It didn’t take long into the fourth quarter before the Dubs stretched the lead to double-digits, eventually settling on a 123-105 win that moved them out of the play-in tournament and into the sixth seed in the West.
Poole finished with 29 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Klay added 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Donte DiVincenzo dropped in 21 points on just 11 shots, and Draymond Green contributed 12 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and elite defense.
From down 23 to up 18. What a win.