The analysis flew in following the Blazers' loss in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series with the Golden State Warriors. CJ McCollum’s surprisingly effective defense, in particular, drew attention from national writers.
Jack Winter of FanRagSports did a nice job breaking down many of McCollum’s defensive possessions and the work he put in slowing down Klay Thompson.
That McCollum and Lillard combined for 75 points on Sunday overshadowed their impact elsewhere, and even distracted from the Blazers’ solid defensive performance as a whole. Portland was good enough defensively to steal Game 1, which is a surprising development all by itself. More shocking to most is that McCollum nearly made life as tough for Thompson on that side of the floor as he did the other.
Seeing McCollum torch the Warriors on the offensive end was nothing out of the ordinary or even unexpected. But the fact that McCollum dictated where and when Thompson was going to get his looks on the defensive end and then snuffed them out almost completely exceed all expectations.
If you’re looking for the head-to-head numbers, Winter has you covered and parses through how often McCollum was on Thompson and the clear correlation between the two.
McCollum fought like hell to make sure those open shots would be hard to come by, and doing so paid major dividends. Thompson took 11 contested field goal attempts in Game 1, according to NBA.com’s player tracking tool, and McCollum was his primary defender on seven of them. Only two of Thompson’s five uncontested tries fall on McCollum; he was off the floor or occupied elsewhere for the remaining three.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the video. Winter showcases four different clips displaying how McCollum was able to track, deter, influence, and really bully Thompson around the floor. Something that we just haven’t seen from McCollum heretofore.
While the Blazers lost Game 1, seeing McCollum demonstrate the capacity to not only be an active defender but an incredibly disruptive and effective one, bodes well going forward. For Portland’s sake, lets hope that these kinds of performances on both ends of the floor become more of an every-game occurrence.