For one quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers looked comfortingly-similar to the team that ran off a four-game win streak heading into the All-Star break. Unfortunately, all it took was one of the Golden State Warriors’ classic, one-of-a-kind runs to render them irrelevant for the next three quarters. The Warriors had seven players score in double-figures and every player had at least five points. That proved too much in a 132-95 primetime rout.
On the Blazers side, Anfernee Simons led the way with an efficient 24-point performance, and he got modest-but-productive performances from a few teammates. The loss moves Portland to 25-35, still in the Western Conference’s No. 10 spot, and one-and-a-half games ahead of San Antonio Spurs.
Stay tuned for Ryan Buchanan’s extended recap; in the meantime, here are some quarter-for-quarter thoughts.
A bit of a fun fact to kickstart things: the Portland Trail Blazers came into tonight’s game without any of their top eight points per game scorers from last season’s team. There’s a consensus that at some point, the tank is supposed to begin; it certainly wasn’t going to start in the first quarter. Portland found immediate success against the Warriors through their own talented backcourt. Anfernee Simons and Josh Hart combined to start a perfect 8-for-8 from the field, taking advantage of either Simons’ pick-and-roll versatility, or the Lillard-like advantage it creates when he takes two defenders with him.
In the process, it was noteworthy in how fast the Blazers’ pace was. They’ve shown a willingness to snag rebounds and fly out in transition as of late. Though, as they soon learned in playing the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, the Warriors could match their strengths point-for-point. Both teams quickly reached double-figures in transition points, the Warriors using their share to claw back in. After opening up a 10-point lead midway through the opening frame, the Blazers had only a 32-31 lead to show for it.
The Trail Blazers’ gritty, equal opportunity offense has its moments, though, with tonight’s game as proof, it’s glaringly obvious when Simons isn’t on the floor creating points. In between the midway point of the first and second quarters, Golden State was able to run off a 35-9 run, quickly turning the Blazers’ 10-point advantage into a 17-point edge in their own front.
If Curry decides to ever grow bored with basketball, he certainly put enough on tape to try out for quarterback in the near future. On Blazers misses and turnovers — there were a lot of those in this quarter — Curry lofted full-court dimes to teammates, keeping the scoreboard operator busy. On defense, Golden State went to a go-to strategy, using 6-foot-7 Jonathan Kuminga and his 6-foot-11 wingspan and Andrew Wiggins to make life relatively difficult for him. We say “relative” because Simons still scored with ease, with 21 points at the half. Those efforts appeared fruitless though, because of the Blazers’ inability to defend without fouling. All told, the Warriors held a 70-57 edge going into halftime.
Ultimately, it didn’t take long for the inevitable to rear its ugly head. The Blazers, though gritty, energetic and competitive, couldn’t match the Warriors’ star-powered offense point-for-point, and further struggled to score on its No. 1-ranked defense. Twice, they cut the score to a dozen, though that deficit eventually ballooned to a 29-point advantage for Golden State.
To their credit, the Blazers continued to move like a team fighting to get back into the game, though the talent and chemistry disparity proved too overwhelming. The Warriors, namely Wiggins and Kuminga, had a stretch midway through the third that all but ensured they wouldn’t need to play in the fourth. Golden State held a 30-16 edge by quarter’s end, leading to a 100-73 lead going into the fourth quarter.
By this point in the game, both teams had elected to put their starters on the bench. Even so, it was glaringly obvious that the Warriors’ group was more prepared to take an edge. Jordan Poole took on a role as the best player on the court in the final frame, threading in assists into the teeth of the Blazers’ nonexistent defense for quick paint scores. By this point, the Warriors had nearly doubled Portland’s paint-scoring output, padding on a lead that now sat in the 30s.
Though, on the plus side, it did allow a few of the Blazers’ newest talent to put some of their game on tape. Brandon Williams, in just his third NBA game, showcased his offensive skills, hitting his first career 3-pointer; new acquisition Keon Johnson showed some nuance, snaking pick-and-rolls and using a nifty spin move to get into the lane on different possessions; Elijah Hughes put his shooting touch and ability to push the tempo on tape. In the grand scheme of things with the game no longer in question, perhaps it doesn’t mean as much. But it stands a positive on a night where they were hard to come by over the final three quarters.
Stay tuned for Ryne Buchanan’s extended analysis of tonight’s game.
The Blazers get two days off before a Sunday night tilt against the Denver Nuggets at 6 pm PT on Feb. 27th.