Non-traditional Game Recap tonight on account of Christmas weekend, me having had little to no sleep, and the game being somewhat non-traditional, although apparently normal for the Blazers and Warriors. As with last week's contest between the two, this game devolved into a slop-fest quickly. Neither team played good defense in the first half. The Warriors were content to shoot from outside, their normal M.O. They're good at it but not good enough to overcome a team willing to play inside and outside. The Blazers weren't exactly strong on the interior, more opportunistic. The Warriors broke down on defense often enough to bolster Portland's points. The Blazers also hit a fair number of their own jumpers. Most importantly the Blazers were solid on the boards, one of the only areas in which "solid" was an apt adjective for either team. Portland led by 1, 57-56, at the half.
The Warriors began third period by committing to interior defense, sending ravaging hordes into the lane whether the Blazers looked interested in probing there or not. The tactic worked early as Golden State built a small lead based on Portland turnovers and missed jumpers. Behind some Warrior turnovers, botched shots, and their own offensive rebounding the Blazers weathered a spell of missed jumpers, erasing the lead and pulling even again. They surpassed Golden State by 1 in the period, taking a 2-point lead into the final stanza.
The Warriors again brought the "D" early in the fourth period, leaving the Blazers to score on tips and threes. The Warriors' own offense abandoned them, however, evidencing a ton of clanging and very little banging. But the Blazers were never able to build a secure lead, settling for the more convenient shots over the best ones. That set the stage for the final 4:00 wherein Portland watched their 6-point lead melt away like cotton candy in a washing machine. Beginning at the four-minute mark the Warriors' possessions read: foul on a three-attempt (3 FTs made), three-pointer, slam dunk, three-pointer. They scored 11 in 90 seconds. During that span the Blazers committed a turnover and missed 4 shots. Trying to compensate for the sudden downdraft with threes of their own, Portland missed shot after shot. Marcus Camby had long since left the game meaning the offensive rebounds on which Portland had relied in times of trouble were all but absent. A couple chip shots and some free throws salted away the game for Golden State, 109-102.
It's hard to be too disappointed with this result because it's not like the Blazers were playing fantastic and just fell apart. They looked like kids learning to ride a bike. Even when they got momentum going it was wobbly and you knew it would be a matter of luck as much as anything were they to reach the finish line. That the Warriors looked almost the same didn't change the equation. It was just a matter of who would fall first. That ended up being Portland.
The fourth-quarter turn-around took a higher-40% game down to 42.3% for the Blazers and raised a mid-40% game for the Warriors to 48.2%. Golden State hit 10 threes (45.5%), the Blazers only 5 (27.8%) which didn't help. The Blazers allowed 31 assists on 40 field goals, which should tell you all you need to know about the quality of defense in this game. Golden State wasn't much better really. Missed shots had more to do with the shooters than the "D". The only passable excuse for defense came on the interior when the Warriors were able to bother the Blazers into misses late. But even then had the Blazers kept their heads and not rushed they probably could have done damage. Portland's non-saving grace was obliterating Golden State on the boards, 53-32 including an incredible 24 offensive rebounds. When those dried up Portland just couldn't hit enough jumpers to compensate.
Nicolas Batum had a great night with 18 points and 10 boards. Wes Money added 25 but shot only 1-6 from distance. Andre Miller had 15 assists but couldn't make a shot to save his life, going 4-15. LaMarcus Aldridge, the target of Golden State's defense when they bothered to play any, went 7-21 for 15 points and 8 rebounds. He did not have a dominant performance. Marcus Camby had 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against the center-less Warriors. Rudy Fernandez had 7 rebounds but also couldn't hit a three and finished with 8 points. Dante Cunningham went 4-8 for a bench-leading 9 points. Patrick Mills had 7 points, making 3-7 shots, and managed 1 assist in 14 minutes.
This was a winnable game for either team. It's sad the Blazers didn't take it because Monday and Tuesday in Utah and Denver will be much harder.