Everyone involved in Game 1 of the Portland-Golden State playoff series got what they wanted Sunday. Everyone.
Of course, some got a little extra portion of what they wanted at the end, because that’s how playoffs work. In this case, the Warriors pulled away from the expectedly stubborn Blazers at the end, 121-109, because they still have the most cards in their hand, and can do with defense what offense alone cannot always accomplish.
See Green, Draymond James. And McGee, JaVale Lindy. And West, David Moorer. And Thompson, Klay Alexander. And . . . oh, hell, you get the point. They brought the whirlwind that usually shows up right after halftime while the customers are settling up their tabs, and despite the seven- or eight-minute delay, they got all the noise that their crowd could give them.
That would be the crowd that Klay Thompson addressed by marking his urgent mid-week plea (as in, he spoke audibly on the matter) that the customers who have grown accustomed to the absurdly good get loud on faith that more good will come.
To their credit, the crowd did that, but as is their wont now that the bar of stimulus has been raised to Andean heights, they waited until the Warriors changed their game with a Green-inspired defensive blitz that turned a no-limit-raise poker game into a standard evening out.
In other words, the Warriors did with end-game defense what C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard did offensively for Portland for three quarters. And though the two Blazers can be pleased with their 75 points (McCollum 40), they found out again what they learned last year.
That beating the Warriors takes just a smidge more than the best the Blazers have. And that Green, shot-blocking, smack-talking, bicep-flexing phenomenon that he is, can do more to energize a crowd almost jaded by the frequency of great shooting performances than maybe any other Warrior.
“Draymond was amazing,” head coach Steve Kerr said of Green manic 19-point, 12-rebound, nine-assist, five-block, 700-word trashtalk fest with Lillard and McCollum. “He made some tremendous defensive plays. He made threes. He rebounded the ball. He had nine assists. I mean, he played a game that I’m not sure anybody else in the league is capable of, honestly. Who else can do what Draymond just did tonight? He’s so unique and so important to us. He was phenomenal.”
Kevin Durant, whose standard of excellence rested with 32 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes, concurred with the way the audience got most jazzed – with a 15-2 run at the start of the fourth quarter in a game tied at 88 mostly due to McCollum and Lillard doing the work of five.
“Especially at home, the crowd feeds off of it, we feed off of it,” Durant said of the run that changed the game for good. “When we get out in transition, that's when we're best. And JaVale, and Draymond, and D. West, like Steph (Curry) said, we're grateful of protecting that rim, and being up on the pick-and-rolls, especially in the second half. We're going to need that for the rest of the series . . . It's good that we've got veteran guys who know how to play, but also are really good at communicating. So we're going to need everybody on the defensive end, like you said, on a string, and we'll be fine.”
That is the generally-held assumption, which is probably why the crowd tried intermittently to inspire itself early but didn’t really shift into sixth until Green, McGee, West, et. al., did it for them.
It is why, in the end, it is okay for this team not to need the crowd for inspiration, but to spur the crowd to do what crowds do best – cheer a desired result with extraordinary components.