In a Nutshell
The Blazers blast the Warriors with offensive rebounds while the Warriors slice the Blazers repeatedly from the three-point line. In a game that came down to a fourth-period struggle the Blazers don't have the legs to play to their strengths and the Warriors roll to the victory.
The course of this game became apparent as soon as both teams got their sea legs under them. The Blazers used LaMarcus Aldridge to draw in defenders. If he didn't take the shot himself he found the open shooter. If that shooter missed Portland jammed the lane for offensive rebounds. It worked. The Warriors either surrendered clean looks or got abused on the boards for putbacks. Plenty of Warrior turnovers didn't help their cause. Portland streaked to an early lead. Golden State responded with a little bit of David Lee before they figured out that the Blazers could compensate for him better than they could compensate for Aldridge. Then they went to their real strength, distance shooting. The second half of the opening period featured Stephen Curry and Brandon Rush putting on a jump-shooting clinic. They scored 12 points in the last 3:20 of the frame, bringing the Warriors back to 26-24, having trailed by 10 before the rush.
The Blazers made liberal use of their bench in the second period. Cancel the Aldridge moves and pencil in Craig Smith bulling his way to the hoop repeatedly. Salt in a bunch of Jamal Crawford shots and you get the idea on offense. Defensively, though, the bench players couldn't watch the inside and the Warriors began getting easy shots, their first four makes of the period being layups or dunks. Fortunately Portland's offense returned to more reliable plays, taking advantage of a returning Aldridge and an active Nicolas Batum. The Warriors didn't have the defensive chops to contain either. On the other hand the Blazers, now sagging on defense to stop those point-blank shots, allowed plenty of open looks on the perimeter...gift certificates which the Warriors were only too happy to cash out. When the dust settled Portland's dynamic duo had outscored the Golden State perimeter ensemble, but barely. Portland led by 5, 53-48, at the half.
That's when the Warriors went buck-naked-wearing-cabbage-on-your-head crazy from the three point arc. In the first 6 minutes of the third period Golden State hit 5 of 6 threes, adding a layup and a free throw for good measure. Portland hit a couple threes of their own plus some assorted shots but you knew when the Blazers needed those threes to fall they were in trouble. The game was tied as Portland called a timeout halfway through the quarter. The Blazers would make only 2 shots and 2 free throws the rest of the period. Those Portland shots were both threes, which was good, but also see what we just said about needing them to stay afloat. Golden State, meanwhile, also made 2 more threes plus a couple of dunks plus a couple of jumpers. Gone was Portland's offensive rebounding advantage. Gone was any rebounding advantage because the Warriors just weren't missing. Gone also were the turnovers. This was becoming a jump-shooting contest and Golden State was winning. 79-73 Warriors after three, an 11-point turn-around.
To their credit the Blazers didn't just mail in the fourth period. They tried to return to the inside game. They tried to play smart defense. But the legs just weren't there. Now Portland was committing turnovers instead of the Warriors. Now the Warriors were getting offensive rebounds instead of the Blazers. Portland covered four opponents adequately but there was always a fifth open, mostly David Lee. Portland drew fouls while Aldridge and Batum tried to reprise their second-quarter heroics but the cracks were too wide. As the game wound down the Blazers were reduced to shooting long and forcing passes past a swarming defense just to get close. Misses and turnovers were the results. The game, though hard-fought and better than many expected, ended with a whimper. Golden State wins 101-93.
Full marks to the Blazers for playing well under the circumstances. In no sense was this an ugly game. The Blazers were not defeated at any time before the closing moments. The victory would have been nice and should have been there based on team talent alone but given the circumstances this was a good game.
Though Monta Ellis had a muted night by his former statistical standards I actually like what he's done with his game. He had but 4 points but coupled them with 12 assists and 3 steals, looking far more point-guard-ish than I've ever seen him.
LaMarcus Aldridge was quietly brilliant but brilliant nonetheless throughout this game. He kept pressure on the Warriors defense and found the right men at the right time. He ended up 7-17 for 18 points plus 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Give him a little more rest and he probably would have had 25 in this game even though the Warriors constantly doubled him in the post. His face-up look was classic LaMarcus tonight.
Gerald Wallace looked a little dead-eyed (and not in the good shooting sense) as the game started. He had a few shining moments on defense but this wasn't one of his big impact nights. 3-9 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists. We know he's going to have up and down nights. That's the character of his game and the team around him. But on night like this a little more "up" would be nice. That said...third game in three nights, finger injury.
Marcus Camby just made mincemeat of the Warriors on the interior. I wish this dude were five years younger because he could have baked them in a pie and served them a la mode too. 16 rebounds and a total "Don't even think about coming into my house" attitude in 24 minutes.
Raymond Felton shot 2-10, 1-4 from distance with 7 assists and 4 personal fouls. The Warriors didn't really test his defense against the drive which helped him. He's still getting screened off a little too easily but I like his effort on that end of the floor better than I did early in the season. As with last night, the numbers are not good but that isn't what killed the team. He's not dominating the action or the ball enough to scuttle things nowadays...a good development.
Wesley Matthews had an inverted night from Felton. He actually shot 5-9 for 15 points and hit 3-4 from the arc. Those threes were nice too...standing still and squared up. (That's a trick Felton hasn't mastered yet, by the way, even when he has time. A little squaring would go a long way towards helping his jumper.) BUT...this was one of those games when Matthews' performance everywhere else seemed anemic. Nothing special on defense, nothing special passing, few moments when you noticed he was on the court at all really unless and until he hit those threes. I love Wesley Matthews on his all-around nights. I'm beginning to dislike Wesley Matthews the scorer.
Jamal Crawford hit 4 threes to save himself tonight but that barely brought him to respectability and even then he went 4-10 from distance. I'm not sure any Blazer should be lofting 10 three-pointers in a game, let alone against the Warriors. You, sir, are not Steph Curry. In fact Curry only shot 8 and hit 6 of them. And that's 8 three-pointers out of 19 shots. Crawford attempted 10 three-pointers out of 14 shots. He had 16 points off the bench. Obviously the Blazers needed them but they come with an asterisk. You wonder if those shots could have been distributed more efficiently.
Nicolas Batum got his 16 points proper, on 5-8 shooting with a ton of energy plus he punished the Warriors on the defensive end too. He had 2 blocks and had the Warriors looking over their shoulders in fear on every break-away layup he even half chased. He only had 3 rebounds but then again his defensive duties involved chasing and staying near perimeter players tonight. This was a good game from Nicolas...far superior to his last two.
Craig Smith had 9 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes, as usual bulling his way into the post for his makes. He's a wrecking crew. The only critique is the same one I've been offering: opponents are starting to know he's going to take the shot every time he catches it. He's having a tougher time getting clear looks as they collapse and they're starting to block his shots. That will get worse if the routine stays predictable.
Kurt Thomas registered his usual 16 minutes. He only had 1 rebound but he also played when the Warriors were hitting jumpers.
Nolan Smith played 5 minutes without incident.
Fun With Numbers
- Portland shot a wonderful (for them) 8-21 from the arc tonight for 38%. Then again the Warriors shot 11-20 for 55%. It's like giving a nice little performance for American Idol and then having Frank Sinatra take the stage after you.
- The Blazers also shot only 41% while the Warriors fired at 51%, making 7 more field goals total.
- The Blazers did amass a 17-8 lead in made free throws and garnered 12 offensive rebounds to the Warriors' 5. The Blazers forced only 11 turnovers though, committing 12 themselves. Together it wasn't enough to overcome the difference.
- Points in the paint were even at 30. Think maybe Portland didn't get inside enough?
Well, this brutal stretch of long road trip plus three-games-in-three-nights is finally over. The Blazers escaped with a respectable, though not brilliant, 11-8 record overall. They didn't excel but they didn't implode. They have only 2 games in the next 6 days. Let's hope they can rest up and post 3-4 wins before the schedule gets nasty again.
Golden State Of Mind will describe the amazingocity of Stephen Curry.