PORTLAND – Another poor shooting third quarter doomed the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
“It was essentially one really good half of basketball, and then we’re talking about the World Champs,” Meyers Leonard said postgame.
Those World Champs have been here before. It’s nothing new for the Golden State Warriors to be down in a Western Conference Finals game and then be able to tighten up defensively while piling on the points.
Golden State now takes a commanding 3-0 series lead after Game 3’s 110-99 victory.
Similar to Game 2 of the series, the Blazers let this one slip away after a great first half.
The biggest adjustment for both teams was the insertion of a new center in their starting lineups.
Golden State started center Damian Jones in place of Andrew Bogut, while the Blazers went with Meyers Leonard. Neither player had seen many minutes in the first two games.
The Blazers had the advantage with the lineup change, particularly in the first half. With Leonard in the lineup, it looked as though Portland’s plan was to outshoot the Warriors instead of trying to slow them down.
Leonard finished with a new playoff career-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-for-7 from three, and he was the first Trail Blazers player to score in double figures on Saturday.
Leonard’s positive impact didn’t go unnoticed by Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.
“He had a terrific first half like the rest of the team,” Stotts said. “I liked his spacing and the way he played in Game 2 in Golden State. He can space the floor, and he and Dame [Lillard], and he and CJ [McCollum], have a good two-man game.”
Leonard’s previous playoff career-high was set back in April of 2015 during the Blazers First Round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he scored 13 points.
Leonard was pleased with his individual performance.
“It’s a little bittersweet because we lost,” Leonard said.
The Blazers were outscored 29-13 in the third quarter. Leonard had just one three-pointer in the quarter.
“This one stings for me personally, because I was given a bigger opportunity and I feel that for a good majority of the night I was helping us win that game and making an impact, but we didn’t come out with a win, so back to the drawing board and come back Monday night ready to go,” Leonard said.
The Trail Blazers center made sure to make a point that even though he was happy with his game, he was disappointed in the overall result.
“This isn’t about me, it’s about the team. Winning at the end of the day is all that matters. So, I’ve got to find a way to be a little bit better and come out Monday night and try to the get the job done,” Leonard said.
Leonard had 13 of his 16 points by halftime. There were a few times he hesitated from deep, and he acknowledged he knows he is in the game to space the floor, saying that is one of his jobs.
“I think I’ve put a lot of work in and all I want to do is help this team win and when I came off the floor, I think it was sometime in the second quarter, you know, the fans were pretty loud, it was a pretty special feeling, “Leonard added.
Now, the 27-year-old is eager to look at the film.
“I feel personally that I have taken more contested shots and that I’m doing a better job of that, however, I’m sure when I look at the film either late tonight or tomorrow, I’ll probably see four or five attempts that maybe I could’ve gotten up,” Leonard said.
The 7-footer was an in-demand interview after the game. A rotating cast of media members came by to talk to the Blazers' big man, and there was one phrase he kept repeating several times:
“If felt good to be out there tonight," Leonard said.
The positive impact was felt, but it wasn’t enough to get by the back-to-back champs.
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