The Trail Blazers look to defend their home court again tonight after decisively defeating the Golden State Warriors in Portland on Saturday, 120-108. Warriors superstar point guard Steph Curry, who is yet to play in any of the first three Western Conference semifinals games, participated in 3-on-3 practice drills yesterday but is still listed as "doubtful" tonight for Game 4.
Damian Lillard -- who's shot 34.1 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep for 23.3 points per game in four 2016 postseason losses and 42.7 percent and 45.8 percent from the floor and from outside, respectively, for 26.8 points a night in five wins -- delivered a 40-point effort on 14-for-27 shooting Saturday night, including a whopping 8-of-13 performance on 3-pointers.
CJ McCollum nailed eight of his 18 shots for 22 points in Game 3 and Al-Farouq Aminu went 8-for-9, tallying 23 points. Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe and Gerald Henderson chipped in a combined 26 points, while the Blazers made 17 3-pointers to the Warriors' 14, limited their own turnovers, slowed down Golden State's fastbreak and went to the line 12 more times than their opponents from the Bay.
Lillard's Herculean effort offensively kept the Blazers on top most of the night, while his supporting cast provided backup. Klay Thompson dropped 35 points (14-for-28 from the field, 5-for-9 on threes) and Draymond Green registered a career-high 37 points (13-for-23 from the floor, 8-of-12 from deep), but the seven Warriors not named Thompson or Green who played at least five minutes on Saturday could only muster up a collective 26 points.
Still, Green let the blame fall on his shoulders.
"The urgency wasn't there. That's my fault," Green told the Oregonian's Geoffrey C. Arnold after the game. "I put it on me because that's what I do. I gotta bring that sense of urgency for us. I don't think I really brought it from the start. That's my fault and I'm not afraid to say that. I know we need to be better at that department and it falls on my shoulders."
Thompson claimed the Blazers had too much energy late.
"We've got to wear these guys down with five or more passes and make those guys work," he told Arnold. "They're hitting threes in the fourth quarter that they've missed in the past few games. That's because we were making them work in those previous two games."
Either way, don't expect another subpar performance from the Warriors tonight, who haven't lost back-to-back games since last year's playoffs.
Up until Game 3 against Portland, though, they hadn't lost to the same team twice this season, either. If the Blazers hope to get their second win of the series tonight at home, they'll have to capitalize while Curry is out. This means bottling up Thompson and Green's teammates, which can be done by getting to the line more often than them, not turning the ball over, defending in transition and continuing to fight on the glass.
All that is much easier said than done against Golden State, and the Blazers may have to do it with a limited Maurice Harkless, who played only seven minutes in Game 3 due to a hip injury suffered earlier in the series and is listed as "probable" tonight. Henderson started the second half for Harkless and went 2-for-8, as did Crabbe in 30 minutes of action. Both could be a big part of Portland coach Terry Stotts' gameplan tonight if Harkless is unavailable or hampered.
Mason Plumee got himself into early foul trouble Saturday and played only 17 minutes, but that opened the door for Davis to tally 30 minutes of his own. And though he had a hard time chasing Green around the perimeter, Davis did well otherwise on the defensive end with the extra burn and notched eight points and 10 boards.
If the Blazers' backcourt comes out tonight focused and prepared to take advantage of a Curry-less Golden State team again, they could pull off another victory at home as the series heads back to the Bay Area for Game 5. Portland's already proven that Thompson and Green can both have mega nights and still lose if their teammates are limited, the Blazers' guards go off and if Portland's reserves and ancillary players show up ready to contribute when necessary, particularly when Lillard plays the role of facilitator -- which he did wonderfully on Saturday to the tune of 10 assists.
Perhaps most important for the Blazers is 3-point shooting -- in wins this postseason, Portland's canned 40.8 percent of its triples. In losses? Just 32.5 percent, a particularly telling stat. The Blazers play from the outside-in, and when their guards and wings are hitting timely threes, the opponent -- even an historically good Warriors team -- can't keep up if they're not firing on all cylinders.
Golden State will come out ready to play tonight, there's no doubt. But they're still likely missing their leader and will have to face 19,980 raucous fans in the Moda Center. If Lillard and McCollum can both string together two solid games in a row, while the auxiliary members of Stotts' attack step up again, the Warriors could be headed back to Oakland with the eries knotted at two games a piece and momentum in the Blazers' favor while Curry's status remains up in the air.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | @ChrisLuciaPDX