As just Portland's third Conference Semifinal game in the past 15 years, not even the visiting Oakland fans could drown out the thunderous response for the heavy-underdog Trail Blazers. The only question remaining was, could the fans give the Blazers enough energy to overcome the Warrior onslaught? Apparently so, as the Blazers brought energy and hustle, beating the Warriors to pull within 2-1 in their best-of-seven series.
The Blazers were led by a monster night from Damian Lillard, who finished with a new career-playoff-high 40 points plus 10 assists, as well as a big night from Al-Farouq Aminu (23 points, 10 rebounds). CJ McCollum added 22 points, including some late daggers.
The Warriors opened the game with a little road sloppiness, giving the Blazers free possessions via turnovers. However, Portland struggled to take advantage. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson continued his tear, hitting three three-pointers early to give the Warriors a 16-7 advantage. Portland returned the favor with a mini-run of their own, capped by a Lillard three-pointer to pull within 18-16. However, Moe Harkless left the game with an apparent right leg injury, replaced by Gerald Henderson. Golden State pulled ahead by 8 again, but the Blazers kept it close, down six at the horn.
First Quarter: Golden State 28, Portland 22
The Blazers brought back their Lillard/McCollum back court to open the second quarter, and it paid off, as Portland took the lead when Allen Crabbe was fouled on a broken-play three-point attempt. However, the lead lasted 15 seconds. The teams played back and forth, neither able to take control, and an Aminu three-pointer broke through for Portland, pushing them ahead by 3 at the halfway point of the quarter. Then out of a timeout, Lillard curled open for a three-pointer. Six point Blazer lead. The lead vacillated between 4 and 6 points as both teams played to a standstill in a physical contest. Lillard continued to torch the Warriors, and when they focused on him, he passed to Aminu for an open three. Nine point Blazer lead with one minute left in the quarter. After a Warriors miss, Lillard had a chance for one more three-pointer. Swish. Lillard finished with 25 first-half points, and the fans cheered as the Blazers headed to the locker room with a nice lead.
Halftime: Portland 58, Golden State 44
A three-point play gave Portland a 15 point lead coming out of the locker room. They tried to maintain it, but Golden State didn't take long, as back-to-back three-pointers cut the lead back to 7, and forced a Blazer timeout. Portland settled down from there. Lillard kept up the pressure, and the Warriors struggled to keep the Blazers from scoring. Lillard handed out six assists in the quarter, as Aminu continued to score. The Warriors had no answers yet, and the Blazers took a double-digit lead to the fourth quarter.
Third Quarter: Portland 93, Golden State 80
The Blazers poured it on to open the fourth. McCollum hit a midrange jumper to extend the lead to 17, and a Henderson free-throw made it 18. A step-back jumper from Lillard swishes, 20 point lead. But the Warriors responded in their usual way, scoring 7 quick points to get within 13. Portland took a timeout with 6 minutes left. Golden State cut into the lead slightly, but Portland held them back, helped by a nifty up-and-under by McCollum. Every time the Warriors thought they had a chance, they'd be felled by Lillard, who hit back-to-back three-pointers with the game on the line. Draymond Green rained down three-pointers to keep Golden State within 11 at the 1:30 mark, but McCollum replied with a contested three-pointer. Swish. Goodnight Golden State, as the Portland Trail Blazers avoid a playoff sweep and get another shot at the Warriors in Moda on Monday.
One huge game in Portland, a Monday night tip-off at 7:30 pm on TNT. But stay tuned tonight for more analysis from Dave Deckard, and tomorrow for postgame interview highlights from David MacKay.