Trail Blazers lament long Nuggets series after Warriors dominate Game 1

Trail Blazers lament long Nuggets series after Warriors dominate Game 1

OAKLAND -- Was it Game 1 jitters, or did fatigue play a role in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 116-94 loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night? 

After battling the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the NBA playoffs and coming away with a Game 7 victory Sunday, the Blazers flew directly to Oakland to prepare for the Warriors. Two days later, they looked gassed -- and for good reason -- in Game 1 at Oracle Arena.

“Having played a tough emotional game two nights ago, that could play into it but I don’t think anybody will use that as an excuse,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

The postseason has been an emotional rollercoaster for Portland. Dramatic come-from-behind victories, buzzer-beating shots and an extremely emotional road finale in Denver looked like they had taken a toll on the Blazers.

“I mean, obviously it’s a difficult physically, you know, and a little bit emotional just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference finals,” star point guard Damian Lillard told a packed media room following the loss. “You win seven games, got one on the road and you’re excited about that and you have to come straight here right from Denver and start prep and get ready for the best team in the league right now.”

With hardly any recovery time and not even a day to gameplan, Portland looked disorganized and sluggish at times.

The Blazers' starting backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum shot a combined 11-for-31 from the floor. Their bigs didn’t even show on high screens, while Steph Curry and Klay Thompson launched shots without challenge.

“Yeah, that was very poor execution, you know, defensively on our part,” Lillard added. “Just having our bigs back that far; understanding the team we are playing against, they are not going to shoot mid-range jumpers and try to attack the rim.”

The Warriors are a contrast in styles with the Nuggets. Denver ran its entire offense through All-Star center Nikola Jokic, and defending him requires a completely different strategy than defending two of the greatest perimeter shooters to ever play the game. With a month to prepare, Portland would still be in trouble.

“You can prepare, in terms of going over certain things and tendencies they like to do, but a lot of it is just basketball,” McCollum said. “They make good basketball plays. Moving without the ball, their role players are constantly setting screens, their bigs are constantly looking and guys that can’t shoot don’t shoot. That’s why they are so successful.”

Golden State has raised an NBA championship banner in two straight years and three of the last four. Not only are they extremely talented, they have a massive advantage in experience that will be difficult for any team to overcome.

Portland hasn’t been in this situation before, and it showed in Game 1. The Blazers shot just 36.1 percent from the floor. They turned the ball over 21 times. They allowed the Warriors to shoot 50 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from long range. You can’t beat the champs with these types of stats.

[RELATED: Steph describes 'weird' feeling after playing Seth in Game 1]

With just a day of recovery and still no trip home, the Blazers have to find a way to overcome some mental and physical obstacles if they hope to make a series out of this.

“We did this to ourselves,” McCollum added. “We went to a seven-game series, and that’s what happens. You got to travel, your back is against the wall a little bit and they were able to take care of business in six games, so they were able to get a little bit more rest. No excuses, we got to be ready to play on Thursday.”

As the old adage goes, a playoff series never truly begins until the road team wins a game. With just a day to make adjustments and recover, Portland is in a tough spot. The Blazers might need a huge boost from their home crowd over the weekend if they hope avoid a quick out.

Why Warriors should be happy Raptors beat Bucks in Game 3 of East finals

Why Warriors should be happy Raptors beat Bucks in Game 3 of East finals

Publicly, the Warriors have no rooting interest in the Eastern Conference finals. Why would they?

They're one win away from reaching their fifth consecutive NBA Finals and in the midst of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.

What they should want, however, is a long series between the Bucks and the Raptors. And that’s exactly why Golden State should be happy Toronto beat Milwaukee 118-112 in double overtime in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series Sunday.

After the Bucks dominated the Raptors in the first two games of the series by a combined 30 points in Milwaukee, Toronto held them off north of the border. This series is guaranteed to go at least five games now. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo played 45 minutes before fouling out, and the Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard's 36 points over 52 minutes. 

A longer series and more minutes played by the two superstars is a win-win for the Warriors. 

Despite winning five consecutive games and being ahead three games to none over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors are without two of their top players. Forward Kevin Durant is rehabbing a strained right calf, and center DeMarcus Cousins is on his way back from a torn left quad. 

Durant didn't travel with the team to Portland and will be out for Game 4 on Monday night. Cousins, however, is said to be closer than KD in returning to the Dubs

[RELATED: Steph believes Warriors won't be slowed by Iggy's injury]

Even without the two stars, the Warriors have been on a roll. But players, and even one mother, know how important Durant and Cousins are in the team's attempt to three-peat.

The NBA Finals don't begin until May 30. The Warriors can have over a week to rest and get healthy if they sweep the Blazers. At the same time, their opponent could be significantly less rested, especially if the Raptors keep winning.

Draymond Green's mom agrees Warriors need Kevin Durant for NBA Finals

Draymond Green's mom agrees Warriors need Kevin Durant for NBA Finals

The Warriors are rolling right now. Whether it's the Splash Brothers heating up from deep, or Draymond Green bringing energy, the Trail Blazers haven’t had any answers in the Western Conference finals. 

And the Warriors are doing it all without Kevin Durant, the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP. 

Without Durant, the Warriors look like the squad that won a ring and set a NBA record with 73 regular-season wins without him. None of that matters, though. When you can have one of the greatest to ever play the game on your team, you welcome him with open arms. 

Draymond Green's mother, Mary Babers-Green, agrees. 

Like mother, like son. 

With Durant rehabbing a strained right calf in the Warriors' last four games, all wins, Draymond has averaged 14 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. Don't tell him the Warriors are better without KD, though. 

“That’s idiotic,” Green said to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Thursday after the Warriors' Game 2 win over the Blazers. “It’s very idiotic. I don’t think there’s one person in this locker room, one person in this organization that thinks that. And I know for damn sure that any idiot that does possibly [say] it don’t believe it.”

[RELATED: How incident with KD helped Draymond change his demeanor]

Durant will miss Game 4 on Monday night. A Warriors win would give them a sweep and well over a week of rest before the NBA Finals begin May 30. They hope that will be enough time for Durant to heal and rejoin them on the court.