OAKLAND – Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum know a thing or three about using his scoring skills to exploit a defense, and he offered advice to his team after it was abused by Warriors star Stephen Curry in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night.
After Curry lit up the Blazers for 36 points on 12-of-23 shooting, including 9-of-15 from deep, McCollum was asked about Portland’s defense against the opposing point guard.
“Not good,” he said.
Asked what they have to do to better defend the pick-and-roll, which is how Curry piled up most of his points, McCollum was, um, more expansive.
“Anything but what we did tonight,” he said.
Tying his career postseason high in 3-balls, Curry provided most of the offensive power behind the Warriors’ 116-94 victory at Oracle Arena. He basically continued the incredible shooting – in a 33-point second half – that carried the Warriors to a Game 6 win that ousted the Houston Rockets in the second round of the NBA playoffs last Friday.
“It helped,” Curry said of the rhythm he found in Houston. “I know what I'm capable of on the floor, and the situation calls for me to be a little bit more aggressive, and hopefully that will continue.
“Obviously it's nice to see the ball go in. I didn't shoot the ball well for ... four-and-a-half-games in the last series, and I got on to a good start tonight. Want to maintain that.”
Curry has scored 69 points in the last six quarters, during which he shot 55.3 percent from the field, including 54.2 percent from beyond the arc. He was also 14-of-14 from the line during that span.
This is not an accident. When Kevin Durant limped off the court in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Rockets, Curry realized it was necessary that he produce more offense. After a scoreless first half in Houston, his best friend has been the bottom of the net.
“I think it had a huge impact,” Draymond Green said of Curry’s second-half binge against the Rockets. “You know, as a player, you want to keep that roll and you try to feed off the momentum from the last game and carry it over. YHe came out from the gate aggressive; also understanding that Kevin is out, and ... he's going to be even more important in our offense, and he came out with that mindset.”
Curry often took advantage of the space cleared by screens set by Warriors big men, whether it was Andrew Bogut or Kevon Looney or Green. Portland’s bigs, particularly heavy-footed Enes Kanter, either didn’t or couldn’t close out.
Damian Lillard, Portland’s long-range specialist, seemed almost envious of the space created for Curry.
“That was very poor execution, you know, defensively on our part,” he said. “Just having our bigs back that far; understanding the team we are playing against, they’re not going to shoot mid-range jumpers and try to attack the rim. If they see the opportunity to shoot a 3, they’re going to tell you. They shoot it at a high clip.
“We've got to bring our guys up and run them off the line, and tonight ... they were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots. You know, that's the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team.”
Curry anticipates changes in Game 2 on Thursday. Portland’s 3-point defense was, in general, atrocious, allowing the Warriors to shoot 51.5 percent (17-of-33) from deep.
“Every game is different,” he said. “You have to reestablish yourself, and that's my perspective no matter how I play.”