The Warriors waltzed to a 116-94 victory over the Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 62 points and 12 three-pointers to deliver Golden State a win in front of the crowd at Oracle Arena. Along with strong offensive performances from their star-studded backcourt, the Warriors suffocated the Blazers’ offense. Coach Terry Stotts’ squad finished with 21 turnovers and connected on just seven of their 28 three-point attempts. Despite long stretches of less-than-ideal play, Portland managed to stay within striking distance, providing a glimmer of hope for the rest of the series.
Tough Defense Compounded by Errors
The Blazers followed up their magnificent performance in Game 7 against the Nuggets by committing 13 turnovers in the first half of Game 1. It is important to credit Golden State’s defense here, but costly mistakes added to Portland’s misery. Damian Lillard was routinely forced off the three-point line and into traffic. Things didn’t get easier for Lillard on the interior. Draymond Green was opportunistic as a help defender and Kevon Looney did a solid job of keeping the action in front of him.
Even with a bevy of hurdles placed in front of them, the Blazers fought through adversity to pull within three points with 46.7 seconds left in the first half. Given how rough the first 24 minutes had gone, it looked like the never-quit Blazers had some postseason magic cooking once again. Unlike the Thunder and Nuggets, the Warriors have a litany of weapons capable of swinging momentum. Instead of closing the half within a possession of Golden State, two Curry three-pointers coupled with a Lillard turnover to give Golden State a 54-45 lead.
Where’s the Help?
Outside of Jamal Murray’s exploits in the second round, the Blazers have emerged relatively unscathed when it comes to outside shooting. That was not the case in Game 1. Whether it was Enes Kanter or Zach Collins on the floor, Curry torched Portland’s perimeter defense. CJ McCollum, Moe Harkless and Lillard all took turns getting stuck on screens. Once free, Curry feasted on the space allotted by the Blazers’ sagging big men.
The Warriors enjoyed just as much success when moving off the ball. Green was given 10-plus feet of space on offense and he used those gaps to find shooters in rhythm.
Meanwhile, the Blazers were forced to cut into the deficit with hard-fought plays inside—that often earned trips to the free throw line. Portland managed to reduce Golden State’s lead to six after the third quarter. All of the Blazers’ hard work unraveled after the Warriors went 5-8 from distance in the final period.
The Warriors connected on 51.5 percent of their 33 attempts from beyond the arc in Game 1. Portland utilized this scheme throughout the year, but it if they plan on extending this series, Stotts is going to have to get creative.
Free Throw Advantage
A quick glance at the free throw totals for both sides would indicate that the Blazers received favorable treatment from the officials. A closer examination reveals that two things created the disparity:
- The Blazers had to work for every basket inside. The Warriors ignored Al-Farouq Aminu on the wing, allowing them to pack the paint. Portland got to the line frequently, but Golden State made sure they earned each trip.
- The Warriors were wide open on their attempts. Golden State’s transition offense and perimeter shooting received little resistance.
The Blazers converted 27 of their 31 free throw attempts. The Warriors went 15-18 from the free throw line.
After exiting Sunday’s Game 7 with a knee injury, Rodney Hood returned to form with 26 minutes of action. He was one of the few players for the Blazers that created opportunities without turnovers. Hood finished with 17 points and a single turnover.
Lillard led the Blazers with 19 points. The Warriors smothered him on the perimeter with two defenders—forcing the ball out of his hands. Lillard made up for his 4-12 shooting performance by sinking all nine of his free throw attempts. Facing constant pressure, the Oakland native recorded six assists and seven turnovers.
McCollum’s streak of 30-point games ended at two after Tuesday’s 17-point outing. He was forced off the three-point line and met extra defenders once he moved downhill. McCollum connected on one of his five three-point attempts.
Harkless provided energy on both ends of the court in Game 1. Defensively, he never quit on plays and notched three blocks. On offense, he positioned himself for passes as the defense collapsed around the Blazers’ guards. Harkless went 7-12 from the field for 17 points.
Questionable defense aside, Kanter presented a problem for the Warriors. He extended possessions with five offensive rebounds and had success passing out of pressure in the first half. Unfortunately for Portland, Golden State appeared to solve the riddle late in the game. Green stymied Kanter in one-on-one matchups and the Warriors relentlessly tested the big fella’s defense on the perimeter.
The Blazers will face the Warriors in Oracle Arena on Thursday before returning home to Portland for Game 3.