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Trail Blazers Have Questions to Answer after Warriors Loss

Steph Curry scored a career-high 62, but that doesn’t fully explain Portland’s performance.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/undefined

In their second matchup in three days, the Portland Trail Blazers fell to the Golden State Warriors 137-122 at the Chase Center. Steph Curry dominated this one for the Warriors, scoring a career-high 62 points.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were the leading scorers for the Blazers, scoring 32 and 28 respectively. Enes Kanter also earned himself a double-double in 24 minutes of play, scoring 24 points and nabbing 12 rebounds, eight of those coming on offense.

First Quarter

The Blazers started quick, forcing early turnovers and capitalizing on those opportunities on the other end for an early 9-2 lead. But the Warriors shook it off and put together an 11-0 run built off the back of forced turnovers of their own. Golden State played like a team mad about being blown out in their last game. They attacked the rim relentlessly, with Steph Curry effortlessly gliding by whoever was in front of him for layups. Golden State was rewarded for aggressiveness, as they drew nine fouls on Portland in the quarter (although the Blazers seemed to...disagree with most of those calls). CJ McCollum — who drew two early fouls and sat most of the quarter — hit a three to bring a chippy first quarter to a close, with Golden State leading 36-33.

Second Quarter

The second quarter started out with more of the back and forth than we saw to end the first. McCollum bounced back from a tough opening quarter to get nine points in the second, putting on display his special ability for making tough shots. But once again, the defensive issues plagued the Blazers as Golden State sliced and diced. Curry’s constant movement off the ball and Draymond Green’s ability to direct traffic set the Warriors up for offensive success. Curry was absolutely unconscious from the floor, working the Blazers for 31 points in the half. Coupled with Portland’s offensive struggles (39% from the field, 25% from three), that meant a 66-54 lead for Golden State.

Third Quarter

Things didn’t get much better for Portland at the beginning of the third. Lillard looked more determined to find his shot, hunting specifically bigger players like James Wiseman who had no hope of keeping up with him. But the defensive woes continued. The fouls called against Portland didn’t make things easier. Derrick Jones Jr. had five fouls halfway through the third while McCollum, Lillard, and Robert Covington all carried three or more. Curry continued to make an ungodly amount of buckets and the Warriors led 97-83 going into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

If you guessed that Enes Kanter would be the reason the Blazers made this game interesting in the final period, then good for you, because I don’t think most people would’ve. But Kanter’s rebounding — especially on the offensive end — and inside scoring played a huge role in keeping this game within arm’s reach. It forced Golden State to bring Wiseman back on the floor, which led to more opportunities for Lillard. Lillard Time started about halfway through the quarter when he hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to single digits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much you do offensively when Curry gets 62 points. Portland lost 137-122.

We Have To Talk About The Defense Again...

It’s a conversation that I think everyone is just tired of at this point, but it’s too much of a thing still to ignore: Portland still can’t put together a consistent 48-minute effort on defense. You can chalk up this loss to Curry exploding offensively or the questionable officiating if you want, but it won’t change the fact that Portland gave up 137 points tonight.

As easy as it is to get excited about guys like Covington and Jones, they’re never going to solve all Portland’s defensive problems. But theoretically, this team should be better than they have been on defense, and it’s worrisome that players like Nurkic and Covington haven’t impacted the game the way they’re supposed to. Portland has work to do on this end to even get up to average.

The Yin and Yang of Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter is one of the more fascinating Blazers to debate. This game was the perfect encapsulation. He had 24 points and 12 boards in just 24 minutes, but he was also one of the main reasons that Portland struggled on defense. It’s the Kanter conundrum Portland will always face: Does the good offense outweigh the terrible defense?

Kanter wasn’t an unknown when he rejoined the Blazers in the offseason. We always knew that he was a mixed bag. The question is whether he can make up for his defensive deficiencies with production on the other end. It might be as simple as not pairing him with other defensive liabilities, such as Carmelo Anthony. It might be more than that. But if anything, this game showed that Kanter can be an asset to Portland.

An Emotional Rollercoaster

We’re officially two weeks into the season and the Blazers sit with a .500 record. They’ve had good wins and really bad losses. One night, they seem like they can beat anyone in the league; the next they take a blowout loss against an arguably inferior opponent. This Warriors series put that polarization right on display.

Is this just what the Blazers will be this year? Are they going to be lethal one night only to fall flat the next? If Portland wants to earn home court advantage in the playoffs, they have to figure out how to find that middle ground and stay consistent. They can’t afford to blow teams out only to get blown out in turn.

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The Blazers will be back in the Moda Center on Tuesday for their matchup against the Chicago Bulls. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. PT.