Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

The Trail Blazers’ season is over, their final attempt at redemption buried amid an avalanche of greatness from Golden State on Monday.

In a devastating start to Game 4, Golden State bolted to leads of 14-0 and 41-13 before eventually sealing a sweep in the best-of-seven series with a 128-103 win at the Moda Center.

Golden State tied an NBA-playoff record with 45 first quarter points and handed the Blazers their first playoff sweep since the Lakers in 2002 won a best-of-five series in three games.

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 25 points, but CJ McCollum missed his first nine shots and finished with six points and one assist on 2-of-12 shooting and the Blazers were held to 38.8 percent shooting.

Golden State, which welcomed the return of Kevin Durant after the star missed Games 2 and 3 with a calf injury, was led by Stephen Curry (37 points), Klay Thompson (18 points) and Draymond Green (21 points, six rebounds, four assists). Durant had 10 points in 20 minutes.

Golden State entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record, and never did they play more like it than in Game 4, and in particular the first quarter.

In a whirlwind of three-pointers, blocks and dunks, the Warriors instantly sucked the air out of the sold out Moda Center. Portland didn’t score until 3:38 into the game with an Evan Turner three-pointer, but the Blazers never could put together a run against the NBA’s second best defense.

The Blazers started the third different starting lineup of the series in Game 4, inserting Meyers Leonard at center, but the move turned out to be moot after the Warriors’ hot start. Leonard played the opening five minutes, during which he grabbed one rebound, and did not play again until the final five minutes, as coach Terry Stotts started Aminu in the second half.

Any hopes for a Blazers’ comeback from a 72-48 halftime deficit were quickly dashed when the Warriors scored the first six points of the second half as the lead eventually swelled to as many as 33.

Shabazz Napier finished with 14 points and Noah Vonleh 14 rebounds for the Blazers. 

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It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

It wasn't a Trail Blazer win, but it was a chance to see the Nurkic Effect

For quite a while Saturday night during the interminable telethon that NBA playoff games have become, it appeared that the Trail Blazers had found the right formula to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Jusuf Nurkic was back, if but a shell of his usual self. The Trail Blazers seem to take inspiration from his return to the lineup, even though he was dragging a broken leg up and down the court. But it wasn't just the inspiration. Nurkic got his team off to a great start with just his presence. The Portland pick-and-roll offense was suddenly potent again, with Nurkic planting a brickwall of a pick and then rolling down the lane toward the basket. There was either an open three or a pass to Nurkic -- and he'd find the open man with his usual knack for such things.

It was nice while it lasted -- he had 11 rebounds and four assists -- and the Nurkic Effect lasted much longer than the 16 and a half minutes he spent on the court. There was an obvious lift. The Blazers played gallantly until the inevitable Warrior surge, about midway through the third quarter. At that point, the Blazers were hanging on for dear life -- trying to get an open shot for Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum against a defense that was willing to allow open shots for anyone but them.

Moda Center was loud and proud most of the night but the tale of this playoff series was never a mystery. The Blazers lost for the third time and there's a fourth one headed their way Monday night. This Golden State team is too much for them and probably too much for anyone else in the league.

But for just under 17 Nurkic minutes Saturday night there was a glimpse of the future, a snapshot of things to come.

Nurkic makes this team better. Much better, even in the condition he was Saturday.

He confessed to a lot of pain after the game and I think it would be unwise to put him through all of that again Monday. I don't think it was a mistake to play him in this game because I trust Portland's medical staff to know what's best for him and the franchise. He got a taste of the playoffs and his teammates found a rallying point. He was pretty much the last card the Blazers had left to play in the series.

Throughout the last few weeks none of us knew exactly what kind of shape he was in. There was hope that when he came back he would be near 100 percent. As it turned out, he was nowhere close ("I'm not the same guy," he said). And for just 15 or 16 minutes a game, I don't think it's worth doing it again. He tried it and it was what it was -- a fun time for us if not for him. He showed the kind of impact he can have when he's right and tried his best to help his squad win one game.

The mission of getting him on the floor was accomplished, if not the part about winning a game. But at this point, it's all about being healthy for next season.

And all about the dreams of what a franchise center can do for this team.

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Warriors overhaul Trail Blazers in fourth quarter, take 3-0 series lead

Jusuf Nurkic finally played Saturday night... and it seemed to give the Portland Trail Blazers a little spark. For a while, that spark turned into a raging fire as the Blazers jumped to leads as high as 16 points over the Golden State Warriors. But in the end, the Warriors doused that fire with solid fourth-quarter defense and timely shooting.

The end result was a 119-113 win that pushed Golden State into a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues Monday night in Moda Center. CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and Damian Lillard added 31. Steph Curry had 34 for the Warriors.

The lead seesawed throughout the fourth quarter as two seemingly tired teams traded punches. Portland's shooting percentage, over .500 most of the night, dipped and the Warriors' rose.

The Trail Blazers came out on fire – and the crowd was deep into it when Portland had  an 11-3 lead as the Warriors called a timeout with 9:11 to go in the first quarter. Portland opened the game by hitting its first five shots from the field.

Nurkic, who received a thunderous ovation when introduced with the starting lineup, scored his first basket 2:26 into the game on a bank shot in the lane over Zaza Pachulia.

He left the floor at the 7:06 mark of the quarter and played about five minutes per quarter. He finished with two points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes.

The Warriors withstood Portland’s opening salvo and crawled to within four points late in the quarter but the Trail Blazers held a 37-30 lead ater the first quarter behind Lillard’s 15 points, fueled by 3-for-4 shooting from three-point range.

Portland shot 57.7 percent from the field in the opening period and held Golden State to 38.5 percent. But the Blazers had seven turnovers over the first 12 minutes while the Warriors had but one.

In the second quarter Portland stretched the lead as high as 16 as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson struggled from the field for the Warriors.

Lillard and McCollum were the backbone of the Portland offense in the first half, combining for 39 points. The Blazers led 67-54 at halftime on the strength of 53 percent shooting. Portland also held a 29-14 rebound edge at halftime.

The lead ballooned to 16 again in the third but then the Warriors made one of their patented runs and closed to within 82-78 when the Blazers called for a timeout with 3:29 left in the third. Golden State turned up its defense and Portland had trouble getting open shots all of a sudden. By the end of the quarter the Blazers were clinging to an 88-87 lead.

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Bleak? Trail Blazers say series with Warriors hasn't started yet

Bleak? Trail Blazers say series with Warriors hasn't started yet

Like so many times before, the outlook is bleak today for the Trail Blazers, this time facing an 0-2 hole as they head into Saturday’s Game 3 against Golden State.

But inside the Blazers, they view life with a different lens.

Much like they were last season when they faced an 0-2 deficit to the Clippers in the first round, and much like this winter, when they were 11 games under .500 and three games out of a playoff spot, this team has shown a penchant for postponing their funeral.

So while the rest of the basketball world plans their tidy demise in four games to the mighty Warriors, the Blazers remained bold, if not brash, in their hope.

“We still believe we can beat them – don’t get it twisted,’’ captain Damian Lillard said. “They won the first two games, we competed well in the first, a blowout in the second, but after the game, scores don’t carry over.

“We feel like we matchup well … we feel like we can beat them.’’

Amid the flurry of clichés trumpeted after Friday’s practice – “a series doesn’t start until someone wins a road game” and “it’s never over until it’s over” – none carried more weight than the body of work in the last two seasons by the core of this team.

“I mean, look at the way our season went,’’ Maurice Harkless said, noting the Blazers 24-35 record entering March. “We rallied and found a way to make the playoffs. Right now, it’s similar: Our backs are against the wall and we have to find a way to rally and make it a series.’’

CJ McCollum said he figures the stubborn fight of the Blazers comes from the backgrounds of their roster. Both he and Lillard went to small schools after being unheralded coming out of high school. Harkless was traded to Portland by Orlando for virtually nothing. Allen Crabbe was a second-round pick. And players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Shabazz Napier have nearly played for as many teams as they have years of NBA service.

“Being counted out, it takes a certain determination, a certain mindset to overcome and have success,’’ McCollum said.

A mindset is one thing. Having enough talent and the ability to execute against the NBA’s best team is another.

The refrain from many of the Blazers players was the 110-81 Game 2 loss – which came with Golden State star Kevin Durant sidelined – meant nothing. Yet, those same players were quick to point out their competitive Game 1 loss, when the score was tied heading into the fourth quarter.

“We have to compete for a full game – I don’t think we’ve done that yet,’’ Harkless said. “We’ve had quarters, we’ve had halves, but we haven’t put together a full game. Game 3 we have to put a full game together.’’

Portland in last season’s playoffs lost the first two at Golden State then won Game 3 in Portland. This season, Portland finished the season with eight wins in a row at home before a loss to New Orleans in the season finale. Golden State this season won both games in Portland, although Evan Turner had a chance to win the second meeting with a three pointer that was off.

The Blazers on Friday “upgraded” center Jusuf Nurkic from out to doubtful for Game 3, which is a step forward but still a regression from the questionable designation he was given for Game 1.

Nurkic or not, Lillard says this is not the time to plan vacations.

“Had we given up after the second game last year (to the Clippers) and come into Game 3 with our heads down, and maybe it doesn’t even matter … maybe we go home in the first round,’’ Lillard said. “It just goes to show that you just never know.’’

Harkless: Blazers face 'must win' in Game 3 against Warriors

Harkless: Blazers face 'must win' in Game 3 against Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. – As much as they tried to tell themselves it was only one game, and that the margin of defeat didn’t matter, the Trail Blazers in the aftermath of Wednesday’s Game 2 blowout at Golden State knew they had put themselves in a precarious position.

Saturday’s Game 3 in Portland?

“It’s a must win game, for sure,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We have to get that game. If we want a chance to win the series, we have to win Game 3.’’

As if playing perhaps the best team ever assembled wasn’t daunting enough, NBA history shows that in seven-game playoff series, teams that have gone up 2-0 have won nearly 94 percent of the time (262-18). 

“We’ve got to get this one,’’ Damian Lillard said of Game 3. “You don’t want to go home and drop this one and then, you know, even if you do win Game 4 you’re coming back here looking at elimination.’’

At the forefront of the Blazers’ preparation figures to be how to stop JaVale McGee from impacting the game so emphatically in his short spurts, while also bracing for what the law of averages says will be a breakout game from the struggling Klay Thompson.

McGee has hurt the Blazers with his rebounding and dunks off lobs – both of which seem to come at pivotal times that sway momentum back in the Warriors’ favor. In Game 2 he had 15 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes, hitting all seven of his shots.

His effectiveness has highlighted the Blazers’ inexperience and lack of depth at the center position. With centers Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis and Festus Ezeli injured, the Blazers have turned to Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard, who have been overwhelmed, and Al-Farouq Aminu, who has been physically overmatched.

 “We didn’t communicate the switches well, but it’s a challenge,’’ coach Terry Stotts said of McGee’s effectiveness. “When you have a guy like Steph or Klay coming off (a screen) you’ve got to get up and guard them and not let the big get behind you … we didn’t obviously cover it the way we wanted to.’’

If McGee’s impact has been unexpected, so too was the Warriors’ ease with Game 2 considering they played without Kevin Durant (calf), Shaun Livingston (finger, hand) and Matt Barnes (ankle).

What’s more, the Warriors enjoy the comforts of a two-game lead despite erratic performances from both Thompson and Curry, neither of which has been near the top of their game.

Thompson on Wednesday continued his series funk, going 6-for-17 with six turnovers. He is now 12-for-33 in the series with eight turnovers while Curry is 15-of-37 in the series with nine turnovers.

Still, with the exception of a second-quarter flurry by the Blazers, Game 2 was never close. Most of the Blazers starters watched for the final 10 minutes from the bench.

“That’s why it’s a series – points don’t carry over,’’ Harkless said. “Doesn’t matter how much we lost by – one or 50 – next game we start 0-0.’’

That will come Saturday in Portland, in a game the Blazers have already amplified to a must-win.

“That’s not pressure,’’ Harkless said of the must-win proclamation. “It’s basketball.’’

The Warriors are just too good -- for the Blazers and probably every other team

The Warriors are just too good -- for the Blazers and probably every other team

OAKLAND – In times like these for Trail Blazer fans it’s important to remember a few things. Such as:

  • Portland isn’t in the Eastern Conference. That means the No. 8-seeded team in the conference doesn’t get to play arguably the worst top-seeded team in playoff history. Instead, it must play one of the best teams in NBA history.
  • Jusuf Nerkic isn’t playing right now. Do you remember your Trail Blazers this season before he showed up? Yes, they looked a lot like what you saw in Game 2 of the playoff series Wednesday night – a 110-81 thrashing by the Golden State Warriors.
  • For as much as people talk about the Warriors’ potent offense, their defense is terrific, too. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 75 points in Game 1. Golden State wasn't going to let that happen again Wednesday. The starting guards totaled 23 Wednesday night, hitting just 9 of 34 shots.
  • The Blazers made only 30 of their 90 shots from the field, including only 7 of 34 from three-point range. And they turned the ball over 18 times. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Part of that is a continuation of the Trail Blazers' offensive stagnation but a lot of it was the Golden State defense.
  • The series moves back to Moda Center for a game Saturday night and another one Monday night. And as Damian Lillard pointed out, “It’s a series. The points don’t carry over.”
  • Or as Draymond Green said, “One thing we know is that it’s just one game… They’re still going to come out in Game 3 and give all they’ve got, whether we have K.D. or not.”
  • Yes, Kevin Durant did not play. No, it didn’t make much difference. These guys, in case you didn’t notice, are good. REAL good.

Will Nurkic play in Game 3? I have no idea. But trust me, the decision to play him won’t be based on how the series stands. It will be dependent on the condition of the break in his leg. If he can play without any further ramifications, I’d expect him to do so. But if there’s any problem there, he’ll sit – just as he has so far. And that's the way it should be. The big thing about Nurkic is his long-term future as a Trail Blazer franchise center. There's no point in risking that in a series his team can't win, anyway.

Folks, he will make a difference if he plays. I still think the Blazers, with him in the lineup, are capable of stealing a home game somehow. But make no mistake, he’s not going to turn this series around. The Warriors are too good right now.

Very probably too good for any team in the league.

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Trail Blazers had a great three-minute opening to Game 2.

Then the rest of the game happened.

Golden State took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven playoff series in commanding fashion Wednesday, using a 20-2 run in the first quarter and a 21-6 spurt to begin the second half that led to a 110-81 victory at Oracle Arena.

Teams in the NBA playoffs with 2-0 leads are 364-24 (.938) all-time and 262-18 in best-of-seven series.

Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.

Neither CJ McCollum nor Damian Lillard could replicate their Game 1 excellence and the Blazers as a whole were sloppy (19 turnovers) and generally off (33.3 percent shooting) as Golden State beat Portland for the 12th consecutive time.

After scoring 41 points in Game 1, McCollum missed his first five shots and finished with 11 points in 4-of-17 shooting. Lillard, who had 34 in Game 1, made four of his first five shots then made only one of his next 12 shots, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Portland led 9-4 in the first three minutes as Lillard made three driving baskets, but Golden State answered with a 20-2 run that was fueled by some shoddy passing from McCollum and Evan Turner and some close-range misses, as Lillard, McCollum and Maurice Harkless all missed layins.

The only Portland threat came in the second, when the Blazers trimmed their 33-17 first-quarter deficit to 43-42 behind the play-making of Turner and the scoring of Harkless. Turner had six assists in the second and Harkless 10 of his 15 points, but the Warriors closed the half on a 12-4 run to lead 55-46 at the break.

In the third, Portland was held to 12 points, the lowest by a Golden State playoff opponent in the shot-clock era, and by 10:24 in the fourth it was 89-60 and Stotts had taken out his starters and replaced them with Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard.

Golden State entered the game worried about its depth after star Kevin Durant (calf), backup point guard Shaun Livingston (finger, hand) and reserve Matt Barnes (ankle) all were ruled out.

But behind a game-changing 13 minutes from reserve center JaVale McGee (15 points, five rebounds) and another all-around game from Draymond Green (six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), the Warriors got by without Durant and off-nights from Stephen Curry (6-of-18, 19 points) and Klay Thompson (6-of-17, 16 points).

Harkless led the Blazers with 15 points, all in the first half, and Lillard (12) and McCollum (11) were the only other Portland players in double figures. Allen Crabbe, who guaranteed a better Game 2 after going 1-for-5 with three points in Game 1, went 3-for-10 and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

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Nurkic still out... and here's how he could have made a difference

Nurkic still out... and here's how he could have made a difference

OAKLAND -- Jusuf Nurkic Tuesday put an end to any mystery about his availability for Game 2 of Portland's first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

He's not playing Wednesday night. He didn't feel ready for it, he said before the team's practice. And, in fact, he was not going to practice Tuesday, either. The video of the interview accompanies this post but as you will hear, he's doing better. And he's also not ready to make any predictions about his appearance in future games.

But he did say he's had a full practice -- and a contact practice, at that.

So there you go. That's about all anyone knows about the situation.

How will it go Wednesday night without him?

Not well, I'd expect. After the first game of the series -- a 121-109 Warrior win Sunday afternoon -- it was obvious how the seven-foot center could help Portland attack Golden State at both ends of the court. His presence at the offensive end would probably force the Warriors into using centers Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee more minutes, something they don't want to do. Pachulia played just 12:28 in Game 1 and McGee played 9:41. Golden State prefers its small lineup, which usually features defensive wizard Draymond Green in the middle.

Now THAT would be an interesting matchup. Green has had success against true centers but Nurkic would be a handful for him. And at least he'd be enough of a threat that he'd keep Green from wandering around blocking shots from the rest of the Trail Blazers.

On defense, Nurkic would provide rim protection that Portland didn't have Sunday. Golden State's 44 points in the paint Sunday was not a huge number, but the Warriors made 22 of their 33 shots in that area and it would help if that percentage came down.

But we won't know, at least for at least one more game, what the Nurkic Effect would be. Or maybe we won't find out during this series at all. Nurkic provided no real clues about the future on Tuesday.

 

Allen Crabbe makes a Game 2 guarantee: He will play better

Allen Crabbe makes a Game 2 guarantee: He will play better

SAN FRANCISCO – Allen Crabbe has a Game 2 guarantee.

After a nondescript 22-minute performance in Game 1, during which he had three points on 1-for-5 shooting, the Trail Blazers’ wing says he will be more aggressive and be more of a factor in Wednesday’s Game 2 against Golden State.

“I understand how important it is for me to come off the bench and bring something to the table,’’ Crabbe said.  “Game 2 for me, I know is definitely not going to be like Game 1. I can guarantee that.’’

One of the lingering questions out of the Trail Blazers’ 121-109 loss to Golden State in Game 1 was who could provide some production outside of  Blazers’ stars CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard.

Crabbe, who in the regular season was the Blazers’ fourth leading scorer behind Lillard, McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, believes that production could come from him.

He says the game plan doesn’t need to change, and coach Terry Stotts doesn’t need to call plays differently. He says it all starts with his mindset.

“It’s me,’’ Crabbe said. “I have to take things into my own hands and be aggressive and go get shots.’’

If you feel like you’ve heard or read this from Crabbe before, you are right.

Much of this season, Crabbe has been battling consistency, a problem that for him is rooted in his aggression. When he shoots, he is productive. When he doesn’t, he becomes anonymous.

The value of an aggressive Crabbe has become obvious this season. When he shoots 10 or more shots, the Blazers are 18-9 (.667 winning percentage). When he scores in double figures they are 25-16 (.609 winning percentage).

“I know a lot of people are saying, like,  ‘You scored this one night, then you go back to scoring this’… well, I feel like it’s me being just having to be in tune with the game and not feeling out the game,’’ Crabbe said.

Crabbe said that Blazers captain Damian Lillard in Game 1 was again in his ear, both on the court and from the sideline. Throughout the season, Lillard has repeatedly told the media that he tells Crabbe to shoot it every time he touches the ball.

“During Game 1, he was like ‘Shoot the ball’ and even when he was on the bench, he was telling me ‘be aggressive, be aggressive,’’’ Crabbe said. “He tells me when I’m aggressive like that it helps the team more and it helps him. And I know I can’t just be out there on the court and not doing anything.’’

Crabbe says he can’t make the mistake of letting the game come to him.

“I can’t wait for certain moments to be aggressive,’’ Crabbe said. “I have to come out and when I step on the floor look for ways to put some points up.’’

He said maybe that means instead of waiting in the corner for a three he goes and sets a pick instead of the power forward or center. Or maybe he cuts to the basket more often and tries to get an easy score.

“I just can’t wait. I can’t wait to feel out a game. I just have to go in with the mindset of getting them up early. The more and more I get the shots up, the more I will be able to produce,’’ Crabbe said.

Stotts on Tuesday was quick to defend Crabbe, noting that it was his first action in 10 days after missing the Blazers’ final three regular season games resting his sore left foot.

“We need him, that’s obvious,’’ Stotts said. “But just because he had one rusty game coming back off injury is a little early for that narrative, to be honest. But yeah, he’s a big part of what we need.’’

In Game 1, McCollum had 41 points and Lillard 34. But the rest of the Blazers went 12-for-39 from the field.

Stotts said the key will be getting production not just out of Crabbe, but also Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. Aminu went 0-for-5 and Harkless 5-for-13.

Last season, Crabbe had a slow start in the playoffs. In the first three games against the Clippers he went for six points, zero points and zero points before going 5-for-5 in Game 4. After that, his last eight playoff games he went 36-of-61 from the field (59 percent) and 15-for-30 from 3-point range.

Whether his mental reset for Game 2 sparks a change figures to be central to the Blazers’ chances of scoring an upset.

“I’m pretty sure for Game 2 there will be a different story,’’ Crabbe said. 

The problem for the Blazers wasn't Warrior offense, it was the world's tallest free safety

The problem for the Blazers wasn't Warrior offense, it was the world's tallest free safety

OAKLAND -- Sometimes, you swear the Golden State Warriors are playing with six defenders against their opponent's five offensive players.

Draymond Green makes it look that way.

At 6-7, Green is capable of defending every position on the floor. He's listed as a forward but against the Trail Blazers Sunday afternoon it seemed as if he was the world's tallest free safety. Or goalie. Whenever the Blazers got into the basket area in the fourth quarter, he was lurking nearby -- ready to smother jump shots or dunks. His timing is amazing and his instincts are even better. There's nobody else in the game like him and he hurt the Trail Blazers down the stretch of their 121-109 loss to the Warriors. Portland was outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter after running up 27, 29 and 32 points in the three previous quarters.

What happened? Well, the best way I can explain it is to point you toward this video from BBall Breakdown. It clearly shows what was going on in key stretches of the game at the Portland end of the court. Green was leaving Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu wide open when he was matched up with them. Those two players, often positioned in the corner behind the three-point line, combined to go 1-7 from long distance. Green obviously had no respect for them and I'd also say the two Portland forwards frequently didn't even get the ball when they were open.

When Green has the freedom to leave his own man and help out on everybody else he's trouble. Make that TROUBLE. He blocked five shots in the game and affected a few more. He snuffed dunks from Damian Lillard and Noah Vonleh and those plays were momentum busters for Portland and momentum builders for the Warriors. In spite of all the points scored, the Blazers defended adequately -- given the opposition. But to beat this team, you have to score big and Green just wasn't going to let that happen.

Portland is going to have to find somebody hitting enough shots to occupy Green or it's going to be a very short series. Which it may be, anyway. Obviously, Jusuf Nurkic would help. But who knows when or if he'll play? In the meantime, a big shooting night is needed by Harkless, Aminu or anyone else playing forward for the Trail Blazers.

And looking to the future, there is no doubt that the biggest remaining role to fill on this team is a deadly three-point shooter at one -- or even both -- of the forward spots.