You can exhale, Rip City.
Behind spectacular performance from the backcourt, the Portland Trail Blazers fended off the defending champion Golden State Warriors 125-108 Friday, making for the second time in less than a month that the team has accomplished that feat.
Down one Stephen Curry and half their bench, the Warriors still looked every bit a championship caliber squad, giving Portland all it could handle down to the final minutes. Kevin Durant was nigh unstoppable, answering nearly every Blazer run with a momentum seizing bucket that kept the Moda Center crowd cautious for most of the night, but Portland dominated the fourth quarter to earn a big win.
With the victory, there’s a lot for the Blazers to feel good about - It extended the club’s winning streak to a now best in the league nine games (by virtue of losses by both Houston and New Orleans) and Portland now has a game and a half lead over the Pelicans for third place in the uber-crowded Western Conference standings.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (28 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds) and C.J. McCollum (30 points, 4 rebounds).
The Warriors were led by Kevin Durant (40 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and Klay Thompson (25 points, 3 assists).
The bench is mightier. When it mattered the most, the Blazers might have gotten its best bench contribution of the season, combing for and incredible 47 points and making big plays down the stretch to ensure the win. Ed Davis was a beast, putting up a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 15 boards as he along with Zach Collins again got the frontcourt minutes in crunch time, playing almost all of the decisive final frame. Evan Turner played a vital role as well, assuming ball handling duties late which freed up Lillard and McCollum after they had been mostly stifled during a Golden State run in the third quarter. It simply cannot be said enough how much Davis means to this team. When the Warriors looked to be getting all the hustle plays to take control of the game, Davis came through and literally muscled Portland back into it.
Friday night lights. For all intents and purposes, Lillard and McCollum should have just played Durant and Thompson two vs. two tonight. Yes, the aforementioned bench effort was vital, but this game was about the stars. With the Rockets losing to Toronto, Golden State certainly sensed an opportunity to increase its chances at the first seed and clearly wanted to win tonight. And for a while, it looked like Durant might have had his way. But credit to the Blazers, Dame and C.J. were just as locked in and put on a show in their own rights. High level basketball all around.
The Blazers will get the weekend off before hosting the Miami Heat Monday night in a nationally televised game at the Moda Center - Late tip is set for 7:30 p.m.