In a Nutshell
The Blazers play Golden State's game for most of the evening, just at a slow pace and less accurately. Portland alternates heroes in different quarters but Raymond Felton comes through with bullseye three-point marksmanship in the fourth and the team backs him up with some strident defense to seal the deal.
The Warriors came out in this game playing exactly the style expected: shooting threes often and quickly. The Blazers responded in kind. Both team hit a reasonable amount and stayed even until late in the period when the Blazers blinked first. Mind you, Portland was scoring whenever they wanted going inside but the idea didn't stick. The combination of the Blazers starting to miss from distance, Golden State rebounding well, and Warriors point guard Charles Jenkins going off like a Bunsen burnered squib (13 points in the period) set Golden State ahead 27-26 at the break.
Portland threw off the Golden State attack with a zone defense in the second, a strategy which they continued with success into the third. Portland's long arms completed smothered any inside attempts, forcing turnovers on interior passes as well. The Warriors like to be outside but when that's all they can get out of their halfcourt offense even they sputter. The problem was, Portland sputtered worse, first under their second unit and then when their starters returned. Nicolas Batum lit up the latter half of the period but it wasn't enough. Golden State extended their lead to 47-40 at the break.
The third period was a nightmare for the Warriors as their offense never got back on track but Portland's went into overdrive behind Batum and Raymond Felton. Felton scored off of drives and shots both, Batum mostly on shots coming off passes or screens. Between them they championed the Blazers to 29 points in the period while the Warriors managed 16. Lead erased, Portland up 69-63 entering the fourth.
In the final stanza, as if they had forgotten everything that led them there, the Blazers went back to bombing outside. The Warriors did too, but they also salted in some rim attacks and put-backs. The game looked more and more in doubt as the period progressed. Then Raymond Felton lit a rocket, tied his shorts strings to it, and shot to the moon. The guy who couldn't hit a three-pointer all season to save his grandma's fuzzy cat busted three between the six and two minute marks of the period. And they were solid. Still, Golden State wasn't going to get beaten by long balls. They drained their shots too and had Portland down 87-86 with 40 seconds remaining. This is when another miracle occurred. Despite the constant three-point shooting (and the surprising makes) when the possession really counted the Blazers fed LaMarcus Aldridge. Felton's fiery streak kept his man from sticking with the double team and Aldridge canned a turn-around to put Portland up. A final near-miracle sealed the deal as Portland played astonishingly tight defense after Golden State inbounded the ball down 3 with 20 seconds left in the game, forcing a horrible shot by Jenkins. The Blazers win 90-87.
This wasn't a complete game, nor completely smart, but the Blazers played well enough with a variety of elements to be successful. Hitting their open threes, a little bit of rebounding, nice transition defense, that zone, and the money play to Aldridge...none were constant but together they amounted to a win. It was nicely done.
LaMarcus Aldridge went 6-12 from the field, 6-10 from the foul line for 18 points. Even more impressive: 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 4 assists. This guy still tries to play. That's probably the element that woke up some of his teammates.
Nicolas Batum had another hot, if intermittent, effort. His offense amounted to 17 points on 7-16 shooting but he also had 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. Much of that great second half defense was keyed by him. I think someone may have keyed in Batum that he should be using these final, free-roll games of the season to make hay instead of just making time. Why let the guards have all the fun? But Batum does it on both ends when he's into the game. Serious bonus.
Joel Przybilla had 7 rebounds in 15 minutes and looked like he was having fun as the only real center in the game.
Raymond Felton pulled Portland's biscuits out of the fire in that fourth period and then warmed them nicely in the arms of his ever-loving three-point shot. 9-17 on the evening, 4-7 from distance, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, only 1 turnover. He should be proud of this game.
Wesley Matthews went 2-12 from the field, 2-8 from the arc for 10 points and 3 steals. He was part of the solid defensive crew though. He was doing so well with his shot form in the last couple of games. What happened?
The Warriors had their hero Charles Jenkins with 27 points tonight. The Blazers had their own Jenkins...Leeroy. He was played by Jamal Crawford, who might as well have shouted the name every time he touched the ball in the first half, blitzing the enemy all alone en route to 1-10 shooting, 0-4 from the arc, and 4 points in 28 minutes. Though Jamal didn't find much success, at least he didn't end up killing his whole team with the performance. Not quite. You could almost hear Coach Canales yelling, "Stick to the plan! Stick to the plan!" as Crawford's battle cry rang out.
J.J. Hickson was active again tonight but only connected on 2-7 shots for 4 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes. If you're thinking he looks different than most Portland reserves, he does. I believe he can play. Whether he's consistent enough and talented enough to take advantage of that drive...we'll see. I like him so far though.
Kurt Thomas and Nolan Smith had nondescript nights.
Luke Babbitt hit 2 of 3 shots from the arc for 6 points, the only Blazer besides Felton to shoot a good percentage from distance. He was also Portland's leading bench scorer. Frame it and hang it on the fridge, Mama Babbitt.
Fun with Numbers
- Golden State 4 fast break points. Granted, the line between "fast break" and "shot just taken really quick" blurs with the Warriors, but that's still a good number, especially since Portland notched a dozen.
- Points in the Paint: GSW-24, PDX-18. You know there are individual teams that would be ashamed of those totals...combined.
- Blazers 20-4 advantage in points after turnovers, 7-14 advantage in turnovers overall.
- Blazers survive 36.5% from the field and a rare awful night at the foul line, 18-27 for 67%.
Wins are still nicer than losses. The lottery gods know this too, so don't worry.
Golden State Of Mind will describe the loss.
There wasn't any Jersey Contest form tonight. Here's the form for the OKC game.