OAKLAND – And so you see now, if you didn’t already know, how difficult it’s going to be to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs.
The Trail Blazers – at least their two best players – gave it a heck of a shot Sunday afternoon in Oracle Arena. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 75 points while hitting 7 of their 15 three-point field goal attempts.
But they got very little help.
Portland got nine points off its bench and just 25 from its starting front line. Sure, Lillard and McCollum took 54 of their team’s 93 shots – but you couldn’t blame them. Who else is going to make shots?
Take away the starting guards and the rest of the Trail Blazers made just 12 out of 39 shots from the field.
Of course, the Warrior defense had something to do with that. The closer Portland got to the basket the more difficult the shots became, thanks to 10 Golden State blocked shots, half of those from Draymond Green.
The Trail Blazers were tied at the half and tied at the end of three quarters but the roof finally caved in during the final period.
“Our fourth-quarter defense in particular changed the game,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “I like the way our guys responded in the second half.”
Portland Coach Terry Stotts agreed – to a point.
“They were very aggressive,” he said about the Warriors in the fourth quarter. “Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well. We had six turnovers in the fourth. Draymond had an impact on the game at the rim and in the paint.
“They got more aggressive on the ball and the trapping pick and rolls a little bit more. So, I mean in a quarter if you have six turnovers and shoot 30 percent in the quarter, it’s going to be rough.
“It’s a credit to their defense and we’ve got to be able to handle that a little bit better.”
The game was officiated similarly to most playoff games over the years – by a different set of rules than the regular season. There was so much more contact allowed than what you can get away with over the 82 games. It was much rougher and more physical than the regular season.
That leads to all sorts of things and it certainly raises the temperature on the floor –- as do all the sideshow gyrations and chatter from Green.
McCollum, who led Portland with 41 points, couldn’t resist a little byplay with the Warriors’ do-it-all power forward after Green got rim-checked on a dunk attempt. McCollum apparently suggested to Green that he needs a little more work on his legs to get up high enough to dunk.
“Yeah, he does need to do some calf raises so he can dunk,” McCollum said. “… Where I’m from, if you talk trash, then I’m going to talk trash to you. It’s not disrespectful. We’re not talking about nobody’s mother or nothing bad.
“But I’ve known Draymond Green since he was at Michigan State. He was a little chubbier then at Michigan State. He’s done really well with himself. He’s worked hard. If I have something I want to say I’m going to say it.”
Lillard, who finished with 34 points, had a pretty good summation of his team’s play.
“I thought myself and CJ played good games tonight,” Lillard said. “And I thought as a group we really defended well. Guys were communicating and playing physical. I thought we executed our scouting report on the defensive end and I thought guys stepped up as well on the offensive end.
“Evan Turner had a good game. I felt like Mo (Harkless) played a good game. But it’s a matter of us two making more of those plays. Hitting guys on the weak side and giving them more opportunity.
“I think to beat the Warriors, we’re going to have to maybe make that extra pass more often and be able to defend on guys more often to allow them to have that type of success so we can actually beat them,”
Indeed, the Trail Blazers played more one-on-one basketball than usual. Rather than run a lot if pick-and-rolls against a team that switches on them, anyway, the two guards often just beat their defender off the dribble and drove to the point.
Obviously, Jusuf Nerkic would have made a difference for the Trail Blazers, but he sat this one out – still nursing that broken leg bone. Stotts was asked if there is a chance that he will play in the series.
“Yes,” came the one-word answer.
A ploy, just a fake out for Golden State's preparation or the real thing?
At this point I have no idea.