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Blazers Rise to the Occasion in Signature Win

Portland’s bench leads the charge in a thrilling, emotional victory over the defending NBA champion Warriors.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

It would be hard to imagine a better way to enter the NBA All-Star break than the Portland Trail Blazers did on Wednesday night. After suffering through a demoralizing pair of back-to-back losses, the Blazers turned in a marquee performance in a 129-107 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Damian Lillard led Portland with 29 points, but the true heroes came from the Blazers bench—Zach Collins and Jake Layman. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant each had 32 points for the Warriors.

The game was tight through the first three quarters, with the Warriors taking a one-point lead into the final stanza. The fourth belonged to the Blazers, as the second-unit turned the energy up to 11 and steamrolled the Dubs over the final seven and-a-half minutes. Collins played the role of defensive anchor and rabble-rouser, while Layman handled the offense as the team outscored Golden State 25-6 to close out the game and secure their first win this season after trailing through three quarters.

Let’s Get Physical

The turning point in this game was an epic chase-down block from Collins on Damion Lee with the Blazers up by three points. He the proceeded to crawl under the skin of just about everybody on the Warriors team—first by getting into a shouting match with Klay Thompson (who finished 2-16 from the field) that included some light shoving and drew both players a technical foul.

The Warriors then further unraveled as Draymond Green was called for a flagrant foul on Collins, drawing the ire of Golden State coach Steve Kerr. An irate Kerr immediately drew two tech’s of his own protesting the call, earning an early trip to the showers. After all of the free throws, the Blazers ended up with an unbelievable, game-altering eight point possession.

It’s tough to overstate the importance of Collins in that fourth quarter, and the box score doesn’t do him any justice. He finished the game only 0-4 from the field, with five rebounds, but his three blocks all came in that decisive frame. His energy alone should earn him a game ball, in what was to this point the signature moment of his young career.

Bench Steps Up

It wasn’t just Collins that stepped up, however. In fact, the second-unit actually played most of the fourth quarter, with Lillard entering around the four-minute mark. Layman had 17 points on 7-9 shooting, in addition to his typical relentless energy. Evan Turner put together a solid performance as well, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Rodney Hood chipped in eight points and Seth Curry 11—including a couple of baskets against his brother to boot.

All told, the Blazer bench outscored the Warriors second-unit 52-23 on the night. It’s worth noting that the Warriors were a bit short-handed, playing without key reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, in addition to starting center DeMarcus Cousins—but don’t let that take away from a phenomenal Blazers effort.

Taking Care of the Rock

The Blazers were able to keep things close in the first half despite not shooting the ball particularly well, including just 31% from distance. However, they did an excellent job of not turning the ball over, committing just one in the first half alone and only four for the game. In addition, for much of the night, the ball movement was on-point—something noticeably lacking during the two-game slide. Portland dished out 24 dimes, led by Lillard’s eight.

The Other Guys

Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while earning the unenviable task of guarding Durant on the other end, to which he performed admirably.

Maurice Harkless bounced back from a string of poor outings with a pretty solid performance—scoring 10 points on 4-9 shooting with five rebounds in 20 minutes. He once again drew the start.

CJ McCollum got off to a good start but finished just 5-13 from the field with 15 points. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

Jusuf Nurkic recovered from a dreadful shooting start (starting the game 1-7) to finish with 11 points and 11 boards in 25 minutes of action, also sitting out the fourth.

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With the NBA All-Star Game this weekend, the Blazers are off until next Thursday, when they begin a seven-game road trip in the Big Apple against the Brooklyn Nets.