Warriors

Warriors overwhelm Trail Blazers with experience, finish series sweep

Warriors overwhelm Trail Blazers with experience, finish series sweep

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A sea of red. A crowd worthy of a win. A team that hasn’t been there before.

Winning in the NBA is a process, and the Portland Trail Blazers learned that the hard way in their four-game sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s not often that teams skip steps. The Denver Nuggets went from a team on the outside looking in last season to a double-overtime Game 7 loss away from an appearance in the Western Conference finals.

The Blazers made a larger leap.  

After being swept in the first round last year, Portland became the best story of the 2018-19 postseason. The Blazers’ epic win over the Nuggets proved they were ready to compete with other up-and-comers.

In Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors, the gap in experience was obvious and too much to overcome.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after the game. “I think it was more of a demonstration of how good they are and how good they have been over the years and they find ways to win.”

Down Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors never seemed to miss a beat. They’re headed to a fifth straight NBA Finals, and their experience level is far beyond any other team at this point.

“Our experience has really been a big factor in our success, not only this playoff run but the last couple,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said earlier in the evening.

Despite leading by as many as 17 in the third quarter, the Blazers allowed the Warriors to close within eight to end the frame, and you could feel the momentum shift.

This was a theme of the series. The Blazers led by 17 in Game 2 and lost. They led by 18 points in the first half on their home floor in Game 3 and fell 110-99.

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“There is a different intensity in the playoffs, just naturally because it’s win or go home,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We know how to find that next gear, and it comes with the experiences that we’ve been through."

While the teams split the regular-season series two games apiece, there is something different about the Warriors and postseason basketball.

“It’s so hard over 82 games to elevate to that level on a nightly basis, but when it matters most, we have nights like tonight where we just find a way and take a team’s best shot and run away,” Curry said.

The Warriors won 73 regular-season games in 2015-16, but they lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Cavaliers in the Finals that season. That defeat seemed to sharpen their focus on postseason play, which is one of the reasons why they’ve rattled off consecutive NBA championships since.

Portland hasn't been this far in the playoffs since the 1999-00 season, long before Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were hoisting triples at Moda Center.

Outside of reserve Rodney Hood, the Blazers don’t have a single player who has ever been to a conference finals, and their leader in postseason appearances is Evan Turner, who has played in 63 games over his nine-year career.

By comparison, Andre Iguodala has logged 139 playoff contests, and Kevin Durant is just a game behind with 138. Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and Draymond Green all have played over 100 postseason games as well, many of which have come together as the core of the Warriors’ dynasty.

“It seems like these days, we’re always going to be more confident because we’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve seen pretty much every situation and had to respond to it,” Kerr added.

Portland might have jumped a step or two in its progress. The Blazers will be better for the experience. They’ve learned what a championship team looks like when the chips are down.

“It’s the furthest we have played in the postseason, and that’s a bit deeper water than what we’ve seen,” Damian Lillard said. “It’s a bit more physical and mentally trying; the level of play is higher. There’s more on the line.”

The Blazers were able to take leads, but holding on to them against one of the great offensive clubs in history was too tall of a task.

There is no shame in losing a series to the Warriors. It was clear from the opening game that one team was celebrating the accomplishment of making it to the Western Conference finals, while the other had a much larger focus in mind.

The Blazers can walk away with their heads held high and with a new appreciation for what it takes to get to the next level.

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

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Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard. 

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

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Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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