The Portland Trail Blazers entered Wednesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors as heavy underdogs, but you wouldn’t know it the way they played them for much of the night. Missing franchise pillars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, along with rotation players Anfernee Simons and Cody Zeller due to injury, Portland gave an inspiring effort against the NBA’s top team in what ended up being a much closer game than many anticipated.
Despite holding the high-powered Warriors well below their seasonal scoring average, the Blazers ultimately fell short of the upset in San Francisco, 104-94. Both teams struggled offensively, but the Blazers were buoyed by a tremendous performance from Nassir Little, who left the game early due to an injury of his own.
Norman Powell was Portland’s leading scorer, going for 26 points. He was just 8-23 from the field, however, and struggled to find a shooting rhythm all night long—particularly from beyond the arc. Steph Curry, an early MVP favorite, led Golden State with 22 points, but it came on just 8-19 shooting, including 6-17 from distance. Backcourt mate Jordan Poole also chipped in 20 points for the Warriors, who now sit at 21-4 on the year.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap.
Here were the key storylines from Wednesday’s game.
Little Shines, Leaves Hurt
The third-year man out of UNC continued his excellent season, returning from a four-game absence with a bang in a tremendous first half. With Powell and Jusuf Nurkic struggling to get things going, Little took charge of the offense, going 5-5 for 18 points and six rebounds to keep the Blazers within two points at the halftime break. He scored in a variety of ways as well, knocking down a pair of triples and also drawing contact to get to the foul line, going 6-10 from the charity stripe.
In addition to the impressive numbers, Little played with a relentless energy despite playing nearly the entire first half. He raced up the court to continuously put pressure on the Warriors’ defense, while also making life difficult for the them on the other of the floor. Unfortunately, after starting the second half 0-3 from the field, he departed the game around the nine-minute mark of the third quarter. He went directly to the locker room and never returned, the official diagnosis a calf cramp.
No other Blazer was able to replace his production, as the Warriors finally separated themselves on the scoreboard after his exit despite their own shaky shooting. All told, both teams shot just 40% from the field, with Golden State faring only slightly better (30% vs. 27%) from distance.
Porter Comes Up Clutch
The Warriors got help from an unexpected hero to help them pull away for good. With Curry unable to find a rhythm, it was Otto Porter Jr. who was able to knock down a pair of three-pointers late in the third to extend Golden State’s lead out to double-digits for the first time. Porter also provided what was essentially the knock-out blow in the game, drawing a foul on another made three and converting on a four-point play just a minute into the fourth quarter to put the Warriors up 14.
The Blazers never folded, however, making things interesting late behind Powell, Nurkic and Ben McLemore. Ultimately, it was Porter’s run that gave the Warriors enough separation to withstand the charge. He finished with 15 points, more than twice his seasonal scoring average, and proved to be the difference maker in helping Golden State survive the upset scare.
Curry entered the night just 16 made three-pointers shy of Ray Allen’s all-time NBA mark of 2,973. It was clear from the jump that the Warriors star had visions of breaking the record in front of his home crowd. He struggled early, however, and ended up just 6-17 from distance, with all but two of his field goal attempts for the game coming from beyond the arc. The Blazers played him aggressively defensively, and his teammates weren’t able to take advantage of the added attention. Golden State’s next five games are on the road, and he sits just 10 triples short of Allen’s crown. His next chance will be Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Blazers will have the next three days off before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night. The game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. PT.