The Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors faced off tonight with three major players and Moe Harkless injured. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green wore street clothes for the Warriors, Jusuf Nurkic (and Harkless) for the Blazers. That left superstar Damian Lillard to face superstar Kevin Durant, with shooting guards CJ McCollum and Klay Thompson riding shotgun for their respective sides. The big scorers came through. Portland’s duo scored 60, Golden State’s 52. A shocking gap between the remainder of the two squads rendered the issue moot. Golden State defended better, shared the ball better, and dominated the proceedings on their way to an easy 111-104 victory that left the young, confused Blazers tied in knots.
With four starters missing between the two teams, this game got off to a rough start. Both defenses resembled a chorus of cats playing soccer. Each team made hay inside against their bumbling counterparts throughout the feeling-out process. Portland scored 16 points in the paint in the quarter, forcing 5 Golden State turnovers along the way. The Blazers led 28-27 at the end of the first quarter.
When the game gets fractured, who better to call than Swaggy P? Nick Young went off on Portland’s second unit in the second period, followed rapidly by veteran David West and Kevin Durant, both of whom smelled blood in the water. Golden State did all their scoring from straight away...few complications required. From the rim to the three-point arc, they got good looks. On the other end, the Warriors tightened up their defense inside and started to bully the Blazers into turnovers and contested shots. Golden State broke open the game with a 33-19 period and led 60-47 at the half.
Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum hit threes as the third quarter commenced but they might as well have been kids with buckets trying to scoop back the ocean. Durant and Thompson responded with triples of their own. The Warriors also resumed scoring at the rim while shutting off the Blazers completely. By the 6:00 mark of the third, the lead was 20. That margin would persist throughout the period, as Portland trailed 75-93 after three.
The Blazers made a run in the fourth behind Lillard and a crew of no-namers. Lillard’s outburst was impressive enough: five field goals made, including a three. But most of Portland’s other points came from Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, and Zach Collins converting layups or dunks. That should show you how much attention the Warriors were paying by that point. The Blazers closed within single digits with 4:41 remaining but never seriously threatened as Golden State slouched their way to the 7-point win.
Never, under any circumstances, forget how good the Warriors are defensively. Draymond Green didn’t suit up and they still held the Blazers to 42% shooting from the field, 25% from the arc. They fouled the heck out of Portland’s guards, but that was their lone concession to bad “D” after the sloppy first quarter. Everybody bought in; they played smart...it was everything the Blazers should do, but somehow don’t.
Good defense allowed the Warriors to play The Rock against Damian Lillard.
“Hey, man, how many are you gonna score tonight?”
“Well, I thought I’d score thirty-ni....”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MANY YOU’RE GONNA SCORE TONIGHT.”
Lillard did indeed get his 39, but those points never brought his team close. He had but 2 assists among the 14 Portland tallied overall. Blazers buckets became discreet events, signifying nothing about the game. They couldn’t get any real runs going.
Of course, that’ll happen when you allow the opponent to shoot 55% from the field, 50% from the arc. The Warriors made 7 more field goals than the Blazers did overall, plus 3 more three-pointers on 8 fewer attempts.
The Blazers did outscore the Warriors in the paint, 42-38. It took 12 offensive rebounds to get them there and Golden State blocked 9 shots in the process.
Portland garnered 11 steals and converted 18 fast break points...huge totals for them. The Warriors netted 23 in transition, so the net advantage ended up at -5.
There’s little need to belabor this more. Golden State played without their MVP point guard and one of the best defensive players in the league. They made mincemeat out of a Blazers team missing their third best player (albeit their only credible big man). The gap between the two teams is more evident than ever.
It’s unfortunate that the Blazers caught the Warriors after four straight losses, but nothing in the universe was going to reverse the trend tonight.
Lillard’s 39 will look good in the aggregate stat column. He shot 12-28, twice the shots of his next-closest teammate. 13 of those attempts came from distance. He hit 5. Lillard did earn 11 foul shots. He also committed 5 fouls. This was a, “Well, something has to work and this is our best shot...” effort more than a brilliant performance.
CJ McCollum hit a much more efficient 8-14 for 21 points but if there’s such a thing as a “quiet” 21, this was it. He did credible work from the mid-range but didn’t seem dominant at any point.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s sweet shooting streak ended tonight. He shot 1-6 from the field, missing both of his threes. Evan Turner started hot, then disappeared once Golden State started defending the lane. Jake Layman missed all 4 of his three-point attempts. Zach Collins had 7 rebounds and 3 steals but also 6 fouls in 25 minutes against theoretically-middling counterparts. Noah Vonleh’s 9 rebounds in 15 minutes was the closest thing to a significant supporting cast contribution Portland had tonight. The Warriors’ ancillary players were clearly better than Portland’s...not even in the same league. Given that, it’s hard to get excited about the 4th-12th men no matter what the stats.
The Blazers travel to Miami to face the Heat on Wednesday night.
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