The Portland Trail Blazers fell to the Golden State Warriors 136-111 Sunday in Oakland, snapping the Blazers' four-game win streak and inching the Warriors closer to history, as Golden State improved to an NBA-best 69-8. This ends the four-game season series with Golden State, with Portland walking away with an all-things-considered very acceptable 1-3 record.
With playoff implications aplenty, not much changed for Portland - The Grizzlies lost on the road in Orlando, so while the Blazers momentarily occupied the fifth-seed in the crowded Western Conference by means of a tiebreaker with Memphis, the loss to Golden State dropped Portland back to sixth, where they sit 1 1/2 games ahead of Dallas and Utah, and 2 1/2 games ahead Houston, as all three teams won Sunday.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard's 38 points, 18 from CJ McCollum and 15 from Maurice Harkless in another solid start. The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry's 39 points and Draymond Green's triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
With Andrew Bogut a scratch, Festus Ezeli was a surprise starter for the Warriors, returning after missing over three months with a knee injury. Ezeli has size and isn't a slouch defensively, but Plumlee was able to take advantage of some rust, beating him twice early for easy buckets as Portland pushed the tempo.
Harkless got off to another hot start, scoring on the Blazers' first possession with a nice move on Green inside, and following it up with a wide-open dunk in transition and then drilling an angle three-pointer which put Portland ahead 25-21. Another impressive driving spin-move floater over Anderson Varejao gave him nine points in the opening period.
Lillard and Curry went toe-to-toe, each knocking down a pair of threes and doing damage at the stripe to go for 14 points apiece during the first. It would only be a taste of what they would deliver later.
End of First: Portland 37, Golden State 31
Golden State was energized by its second unit consisting of Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston and Marresse Speights, who combined to score the Warriors' first six points of the second and quickly chunk into Portland's early lead. Baskets from Gerald Henderson, McCollum and Allen Crabbe briefly restored order, but back-to-back threes from Curry and Brandon Rush reclaimed the Golden State lead at 47-46 just over halfway through the quarter.
The strong outside shooting of Al-Farouq Aminu continued, draining a pair of threes in the first half, the second of which briefly tying the game at 54 before Green and Harrison Barnes combined to score the next nine points as the Warriors matched its largest lead. After putting up 37 in the first, the Blazers only managed 19 in the second as Golden State's defense clamped down and dictated the game.
Halftime: Portland 56, Golden State 63
The third quarter was all Curry and Lillard as the two delivered one of the more impressive back-and-forth sequences in recent memory. Lillard was sensational, scoring 16 points in the period - including three threes - as he almost single-handedly kept Portland in the game as the Warriors continued to pour it on.
But for every big shot Lillard would make, Curry had the answer. Dame would hit a step-back three at one end, Steph would respond with nearly the mirror image at the other. Curry added 14 of his own during the third and despite Lillard's effort, Golden State still managed to widen its advantage. The Blazers clawed as close as within five on Henderson's turnaround fader, but after Lillard checked out for a rest with 2:44 remaining the Warriors rattled off a 12-5 run to take a commanding lead into the final frame.
End of Third: Portland 89, Golden State 101
Portland threatened a couple runs early in the fourth but didn't cut back into single-digits until McCollum's three in transition which brought the Blazers within nine at 112-103 halfway through the period. Lillard resumed his big night with a tough step-back to give him 34 points, and later earned consecutive trips to the foul line for 38.
But Curry and Co. would ultimately be too much to overcome, as the likely MVP combined with Klay Thompson for eight straight points, including back-to-back threes which all put the finishing touches on the evening and stretch the lead back to 18 at 123-105. At that point Golden State's bench ran off with it and Portland wisely threw in the towel.
The Blazers get a night off before they take a short trip south to Sacramento Tuesday to take on the Kings - tip is set for 7 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter