Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (left knee) had missed a total of 10 games before returning on Sunday night to face the Nuggets. Portland went 8-2 during that span.  

With the Nuggets now guaranteed to finish no worse than third in the Western Conference standings, Denver decided to rest Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Jamal Murray on Sunday.

Even though, Denver was without three starters, the Nuggets kept it close throughout.  Denver took care of the ball and despite being the smaller team down low, they were able to keep up with the Blazers on the glass. Portland eventually was able to pull away and snag a 115-108 victory behind McCollum's passing and Damian Lillard's key three-pointer in the last three minutes of action.  

With the win, the Blazers snapped a six-game losing streak to the Nuggets.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 115, Nuggets 108

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers seventh consecutive home win:

1. McCollum back and on the attack

Trail Blazers fans at Moda Center gave CJ McCollum a warm welcome back during introductions.

It looked as though McCollum had not missed the last 10 games. He was still as aggressive as you expect from him. From media row, McCollum was getting up and down the court just fine, which is always the biggest concern when a guy misses that much time.

Rodney Hood subbed in for McCollum at the 3:16 mark of the first quarter. In his first stint, McCollum went 3-of-6 from the field for nine points and dished out 2 assists in nine minutes of work.

McCollum returned at the 8:58 mark of the second quarter and when he got his name called off the bench, he sprinted to the scorer’s table to get back in the game. That sprint made you forget about any kind of knee injury. 

McCollum played a surprising 14 minutes in the first half. He had nine points, four assists, and two rebounds at halftime.

Despite the good first half, McCollum looked rusty in the second. Only time will tell how long until McCollum hits his full game stride again. 

The 27-year-old finished with 25 minutes of work. He had nine points, six assists, and six rebounds in the win. 

2.  Getting more shooters back on the court

Not only did the Blazers get McCollum back, Seth Curry returned from a one game absence as well after dealing with left tibia soreness. The Blazers had missed Curry’s shooting in Friday’s loss to Denver. Curry had been playing so well with McCollum out and just because the Blazers got their starting two-guard back, it did not effect Curry’s minutes or his shot.

Through the first two quarters, Curry had had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-2 from three.

His shooting from deep and his midrange game has been on point lately. There’s no doubt his scoring is going to be a necessity in the postseason. Having another weapon like Curry off the bench is what the Blazers were missing last season when Portland got swept by New Orleans.

Al-Farouq Aminu was also very aggressive on the offensive end. Chief notched a new season-high with 23 points.

3. Short-handed Nuggets hang around

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blazers had a five point lead. The Nuggets relied on Gary Harris and Trey Lyles on the offensive end. You’ve got to give the Nuggets some credit; they never once looked like they didn’t believe they could win.

Denver’s head coach Mike Malone said before the game, even though they were resting their stars, that did not mean they weren’t looking to get the win and “play the right way.”

Sunday’s performance by Denver showed just how deep this team is this season. For Portland, the game showed this squad could be a little worn out right now.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers will finish the regular season with a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Portland travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Tuesday at 7:30pm. You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest with our pregame coverage starting at 6:30pm. The Blazers then host the Kings at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Report: Memphis receives permission to interview Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts for head coaching job 

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Report: Memphis receives permission to interview Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts for head coaching job 

The Memphis Grizzlies next head coach may be in Portland. 

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies have received permission to interview Portland Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for the franchise’s vacant head coaching gig. 

Tibbetts, who has been on Terry Stotts' staff since the 2013-14 season, last interviewed with the Cavaliers back in April. The Grizzlies have also been linked to former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov and Utah Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for the head coach vacancy. 

What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

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What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers are down 0-3 to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. No team has overcome such a deficit, but the Blazers aren’t out of the NBA Playoffs just yet. 

Portland will look to keep its season alive on Monday night, as they face off against the Warriors on home court in Game 4. Here’s a look at What They’re Saying ahead of the Blazers must-win game. 

Damian Lillard knows the odds of an 0-3 comeback aren't in Portland’s favor, but the Trail Blazers guard told Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times he’s not giving up.

“You know, you look at the numbers and there’s a slim chance of you winning the series like that, but we’ve got a lot to play for. Obviously you never know when the first time it’s going to happen. We could be the first team to do it.”

On Skip and Shannon: UNDISPUTED, former NBA player Kendrick Perkins told moderator Jenny Taft that he felt the Blazers have overachieved in the NBA Playoffs, while the Warriors are focused on making a point.

“Portland has overachieved. They good where they at, making it to the Western Conference Finals. I think we’ve seen that after Game 7, Dame getting emotional…I think that this is more about Golden State proving to the world that they can win without Kevin Durant.”

If the Blazers do get swept on Monday night, there’s a lot basketball fans can still be thankful for in this series. The Curry brothers’ rivalry is on the list. For the Win’s Charles Curtis shared a thank you note to the Curry bros.

“There was that trash talk between Steph and Seth. There have been moments when they’ve stolen basketballs from each other or splashed a three in each other’s faces. But there’s also been the entertainment from their parents Dell and Sonya, who have worn half-Blazers and half-Warriors jerseys to root on both their kids.”

Shaun Powell of NBA.com says that while Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are further in the postseason than they’ve been in 19 years, Lillard and McCollum will have to pull off a jaw-dropping performance to extend their season. 

“So what’s left of the Blazers? Unless there’s a premium performance coming from Lillard and McCollum in Game 4, their season is likely done after Monday night. With Green and Stephen Curry looking nostalgic, the Warriors have that 2015 feeling when they won a title without Durant. The Warriors also know they’ll get nine days’ rest with a sweep, as if they need any further motivation.

At this point, all the Blazers have is their pride, with none bigger than Lillard’s.”

Game 4 tips off on Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Trail Blazers’ center Enes Kanter sleeps with a bedside-table panic button and his teammates had no idea

Trail Blazers’ center Enes Kanter sleeps with a bedside-table panic button and his teammates had no idea

While Enes Kanter and the Portland Trail Blazers are fighting to keep their season alive against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the Trail Blazers center is fighting for something else behind the scenes.

Kanter has been a fierce critic of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism. Because of his outspoken beliefs of the Turkish government, the 27-year-old player has been the target of death threats and fears for his life.

Kanter has said the Turkish government has requested an INTERPOL “red notice,” which essentially is a request to locate and arrest an individual pending extradition. While a search of INTERPOL’s red notice database did not reveal any current notices against Kanter, it’s important to note not all notices are disseminated publicly.

[RELATED: Enes Kanter remains in USA on "Red Notice"... but what does that mean? ]

While the 6-foot-11 center is focused on helping his team win a championship for the first time in 42 years, Kanter sat down with ESPN’s Tim Keown to talk about the death threats he’s received, why he’ll keep voicing his opinion and what it's like to have the support from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

Kanter revealed that upon joining the Blazers in February, he spoke with local FBI agents, who suggested he install a panic button within arm's reach next to his bed. 

“So Enes Kanter goes to sleep every night and wakes up every morning with tangible proof of his own mortality -- and others' possible designs on it -- less than an arm's length away. This, too, Kanter relays dispassionately, as if a bedside-table panic button connected to law enforcement is simply one more modern amenity, like a high-tech thermostat. He has learned to accept the absurd as normal.”

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden explains why he and Kanter have become friends, and why he recently wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Canada to ensure Kanter’s safe passage in and out of the country.

"Sen. Ron Wyden, a 6-foot-4 former basketball player at UC Santa Barbara, wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking for Canada to ensure Kanter's safe passage in and out of the country. Since he joined the Blazers, Kanter and Wyden have become friends; Wyden took Kanter's case not only to Trudeau but to the floor of the Senate, where he warned Erdogan, through the vast but underwatched reach of C-SPAN, that America was paying attention to the "show trial" planned in April for Kanter's father."

Despite the threats Kanter receives every day, his teammate Jake Layman says it’s something he rarely talks about.

"He tries to keep that to a minimum. I've heard it's not pretty, and I've heard that it's serious stuff. I think the way he's handled it has been amazing. Fighting for his country every chance he gets -- it's very inspiring to see how much he goes through to fight for what he believes in."

Kanter doesn’t have any plans to stop his outspoken defiance against Erdogan anytime soon.

"I will never stop talking. I understand my mother and father and sister are in Turkey, but if I stop talking, who is going to speak for the thousands and thousands of innocent people in jail? People are getting tortured and killed, so I have to talk about these issues. I'm not a journalist or a politician, so this is my platform."

Read the full article here from ESPN. 

Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

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Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

With the clock winding down, Damian Lillard measured Paul George and stepped into a 37-foot game winner to push the Portland Trail Blazers into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

It was bedlam. In a single moment, Lillard transformed from All-Star to something more. A superstar? Maybe. A legend in Portland? For sure.

As his teammates stormed the court, a photo was taken which captured a deadpanned Lillard staring into the lens as his teammates piled on.  

“That was the craziest shot I’ve ever seen in person,” Skal Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “It was great, just the atmosphere and the moment, the magnitude of the moment. It was the last game of the series and being against OKC. It was just a great shot.”

Labissiere’s huge smile lights up the picture. He’s in the upper right hand corner embracing his star guard.

One of the biggest moments of the 2018-19 playoffs and somehow Skal Labissiere makes the picture? This is the NBA life. One moment you can be wasting away on the Sacramento Kings' bench preparing for a 13th straight year without a postseason appearance and the next thing you know, you are in the Western Conference finals.

The 7-footer was dealt at the trade deadline from Sacramento to Portland in a swap for Caleb Swanigan. While he hasn’t found a spot in the rotation quite yet, the Haitian-born big was in desperate need of a career reboot.

Selected by Sacramento with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere played 106 games in a Kings uniform before the trade. With the focus shifting to young players like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, the 23-year-old center was a spare piece.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been learning a lot from all the veterans here and the coaches. I’ve been learning a lot - the culture, the game, the guys here, they welcomed me with open arms. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve been here.”

Labissiere played in just nine games for the Blazers as they fought for playoff positioning down the stretch. In the season finale against his former team, the smooth shooting big dropped in 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes, reminding the Kings what could have been.

While things didn’t go as planned for Labissiere in Sacramento, he has no ill-will towards the franchise. If anything, he was gracious for the experience.

“Thank you for everything,” Labissiere said of his two-plus years in Sacramento. “Thank you to Vlade (Divac), Vivek (Ranadivé) for taking a chance on me on draft night. Even coach Joerger, giving me a chance to play in my rookie year and after the (DeMarcus Cousins) trade and in my second year in the league, just believing in me and cheering for me.”

Even when he wasn’t playing major minutes, Labissiere said he appreciated the cheers he received from the fans. He’s starting over in Portland with the hopes that he can find a permanent spot in the league.

He’s also getting an incredible experience of playing deep into the playoffs. He’s made three appearances in the postseason so far, but he’s taking it all in and trying to absorb as much as he can from the opportunity.

“This is a first time for everything, so I’m very excited to be here, just getting to experience this, even though I’m not playing a whole lot,” Labissiere said. “I’m still watching and learning how the guys approach every game and just supporting. Hopefully at some point I’ll get out there and be able to help the team, but as of right now, I’m satisfied with just learning and watching from afar.”

There’s a lot you can learn about the game of basketball by sitting back and watching. There is also a lot you can learn by walking into a new environment.

“I could tell when I first got here just the closeness of this group,” Labissiere said. “Everybody is for each other. They all care about winning, no matter what it takes. Whatever they have to do, sacrifice, as far as their roles, they’ll do it just for the betterment of the team.”

[RELATED: Damian Lillard playing through pain, team playing with pride]

Labissiere has a guaranteed contract next season in Portland and a summer to show that he can fit into the system and be part of the Blazers' family. For now, he’s trying to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

He isn't the only former Kings player still alive in the postseason. Seth Curry, George Hill, Eric Moreland and DeMarcus Cousins are all still playing as the playoffs inch towards the Finals.

How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

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How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

Damian Lillard is having a tough go at it, and it's not about to get any easier.

Lillard reportedly has a separated rib, and he and the Portland Trail Blazers now face an extremely steep uphill battle to dig themselves out of a three-games-to-none series deficit against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Game 4 is Monday night, and if Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum don't find a way to be more efficient scorers -- they've combined for 35.2 percent shooting from the field thus far -- it could mean the end of Portland's season.

Of course, Lillard and McCollum aren't shooting in a vacuum. They're going up against a talented Warriros defense that's employing a strategy designed to make them uncomfortable.

"Steve Kerr’s defensive strategy coming in, I think was great," Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said after the Blazers Game 3 loss Saturday. "Looks to me [the Warriors] all bought into it, and they love it. They’re really thriving in it. They’re getting the ball out of CJ McCollum’s hands, Damian Lillard’s hands, and that’s frustrating them. They want the ball back."

Mullin knows Lillard and McCollum are more than capable of catching fire at any moment. But unfortunately for Portland, that's not exclusive to the Blazers in this series.

“They’re great players, they really, really are," Mullin said of Lillard and McCollum. "They can really score the ball. They’re two of the best guards -- probably the second-best backcourt in the league.

“There’s a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 2.”

The No. 1 backcourt being referred to, of course, is that of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers are having a far more proficient series, compared to the Blazers' backcourt, and Mullin believes that's partly because they're more difficult to strategize against.

"What Steve Kerr’s done, he knows what [Lillard and McCollum] don’t like to do, and he’s making them do it," Mullin explained. "So when they give the ball up, that’s wearing on them, I think, mentally and physically. When you see Steph give it up, he almost gets more energized, because he loves running off screens. Same with Klay. 

"I think it’s had a negative effect on [Lillard and McCollum's] energy," Mullin continued, "because that’s not what they want to do. They’re not as comfortable without the ball. I think it’s had an effect across the board, so I give credit to the strategy that Steve has come into the series with, and then a lot of credit to the players for executing it."

Given that the Warriors have prevailed in each of the first three games of the series while employing that same strategy, it's unlikely they'll go away from what has proven to be effective when they take the floor for Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night. If Golden State can continue making Lillard and McCollum uncomfortable, Portland's season could be on borrowed time.

Based on what he's seen, Mullin isn't expecting a potential Game 5 to be necessary.

"Get the brooms out," he said.

Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

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Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers easily on your device.

No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win in the NBA Playoffs.  

As the Trail Blazers prepared for Golden State ahead of Game 4, Portland discussed how they are approaching being down 3-0 before Sunday’s practice. It’s all about playing with pride.

“We’ve put so much into the success that we’ve had this season that everybody cares,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “It means something to everybody. So on top of all those things, having pride and not wanting to be swept, we’re not ready to stop playing. So it’s as simple as that.”

Meyers Leonard added that the team’s mindset is to, “have pride-- simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, ‘well, we’re down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer.’ That’s not who we are. That’s not, certainly our mindset… We have a group of guys that really care.”

While CJ McCollum mentioned his mindset is to, “play hard. That’s the biggest thing. Go out there, play hard, have fun, try to execute the game plan, and that should be enough.”


Where to Watch: ESPN

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Golden State -3.5

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (5:30 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio


For the Trail Blazers,  Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out for Tuesday’s Game 4 vs. Golden State.

For the Warriors,  DeMarcus Cousins (left quad) and Kevin Durant (right calf) are out. Andre Iguodala (left calf) is questionable.


Dwight Jaynes: Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers? 

Jamie Hudson: Meyers Leonard felt "bittersweet" after Game 3

Mike Richman: 'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

VIDEO: Blazers two tasks: Stop Warriors in 3Q, make history

VIDEO: Damian Lillard updates us on his rib injury

VIDEO: Any vindication for Meyers Leonard?

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

For Meyers Leonard, it was a special opportunity Saturday night, a rare chance to start a playoff game.  And for Leonard, there haven’t been a lot of chances to start ANY games.

He didn’t get off the bench at all in 21 Portland games this season and was in the starting lineup only twice – with one of those being that final contest of the year when the Trail Blazers rested the starters and turned the game over to their young players, other than the 27-year-old Leonard.

He did not play in 10 of his team’s final 16 games of the regular season and then sat out five of the Trail Blazers’ last seven playoff games before going the entire fourth quarter of Game 2 against Golden State.

And it’s not as if he hasn’t been a solid playoff contributor during his career. In 24 playoff games, he’s shot 50.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range.

In 2014-15, as a 22-year-old, second-year player. Leonard hit 10 of 13 three-point field goals over a five-game playoff series vs. Memphis.

In the spotlight of a must-win game Saturday night, Leonard knocked down half of his 12 shots from the floor, three of seven from long distance and scored 16 points in a very consistent performance at both ends of the floor.

“I thought Meyers played great,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “Meyers had a great game.”

No matter how infrequent his appearances, Leonard always keeps himself ready.

He wasn’t anxious to talk about the frustration and disappointment he has suffered during a career that has seen him spend more time on the bench than on the court. He doesn’t criticize his coaching staff or cause dissension over his situation, even though, at various times, his production has appeared to merit more minutes on the floor and Trail Blazer fans have demeaned him on the talk shows and social media because of his salary.

“What I'll say is, I'm thankful that Coach Stotts and the staff and my teammates, for that matter, had the belief in me and know that I can play,” he said Sunday prior to his team’s practice. “It's been up and down, and I approach every day the same as if I'm going to play.

“I try to prepare as best I can, and I used this quote last night, it's one that I really like. It's what the (Navy) Seals talk about: You don't really rise to the occasion, you fall back on training.

“I put a lot of work in, and I feel that I'm very dedicated to myself and to my team to improving and being ready to play when my number is called.  So, although the minutes have been up and down and it's, I guess, not consistent, my goal is to remain consistent when I'm counted on.

“In a pretty big game, obviously, it's been, whatever, 19 years since the Blazers have been in the Western Conference finals, I feel that I did a pretty darned good job being ready to play and trying to help us win.”

And, as always, Leonard is resolute about what his team must do to keep from making this series a 4-0 Warriors’ sweep Monday night.

“Have pride,” he said. “Simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, well, we're down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer?

“That's not who we are. That's not, certainly not our mindset. And we have a group of guys that really care and love to win, and so we're going to come out tomorrow night and we're going to fight and we're going to give them a really good effort.”

Something Leonard always does.

Stay ahead of your team in the Western Conference Finals. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more. Download the app, log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now

Damian Lillard playing through pain, team playing with pride

Damian Lillard playing through pain, team playing with pride

The Trail Blazers will look to keep their season alive on Monday night when Portland hosts Golden State in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Damian Lillard spoke with the media before Sunday’s practice ahead of Game 4, to talk about his reported injury, how the team approaches being down 3-0, and more.


Lillard confirmed that he has been playing with separated ribs.

“I feel fine, I mean, it happened early in the second game. I think the third [quarter] of the second game. I finished the game and played last night,” Lillard said.

Lillard also said, “I don’t think it’s affecting my game.”

The Trail Blazers point guard is not taking any painkillers for his injury, but he has been playing with his ribs taped and padded.


One thing is for sure – the Blazers will not roll over now that they’re down 3-0. Portland is now playing for pride.

“We’ve put so much into the success that we’ve had this season that everybody cares,” Lillard said. “It means something to everybody. So on top of all those things, having pride and not wanting to be swept, we’re not ready to stop playing. So it’s as simple as that.”

Meyers Leonard added that the team’s mindset is to, “have pride-- simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, ‘well, we’re down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer.’ That’s not who we are. That’s not, certainly our mindset… We have a group of guys that really care.”


Former Oregon wide receiver, Keanon Lowe, tackled the armed student at Parkrose High School in NE Portland Friday night. The local high school that thankfully avoided tragedy on Friday holds a special spot in Lillard’s heart.  

“Parkrose, first of all, my connection to Parkrose, they’re one of my Respect Schools where I go and speak to those kids. I form relationships with their staff and students at the school, and they’ve really bought into the respect campaign. There’s a connection there,” Lillard said.

Lillard and the Blazers invited Lowe to Game 3 at Moda Center Saturday night. Lillard spoke to Lowe after the game.

“For him to take that type of stand and to go tackle the kid and protect all those people and himself I think just – that’s a real hero move,” Lillard said.

Stay ahead of your team in the Western Conference Finals. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more. Download the app, log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now

'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

With Rip City nearly reduced to rubble, the leader of the demolition lingered at midcourt to celebrate with his co-workers.

Draymond Green hugged Stephen Curry and then hi-fived Alfonzo McKinnie, Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson. Behind a virtuoso performance from their fiery do-it-all forward, the Golden State Warriors grabbed a commanding 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals, moving them one win away from a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He was like a wrecking ball, destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible. It just seemed like he never got tired.”

Game 3 in the Moda Center played out much the same way as Game 2 at Oracle Arena had two days earlier. The Blazers put together a brilliant first 24 minutes then the wrecking ball came crashing through in third quarter. The Warriors have a way of making double-digit leads crumble in an instant, the Blazers’ 18 point lead in Game 3 last longer than their 17 point lead in Game 2, but the final result was still the same.

In the decisive third quarter Saturday night, Green took two shots, drawing a shooting foul on one and finishing a transition layup on the other. But he changed the game with his force, creating 13 points off six assist and grabbing six rebounds while pushing the pace at every opportunity. He overwhelmed the Blazers and shifted the series likely for good.

Defensively, Green was seemingly everywhere. He would trap Damian Lillard above the three-point arc and then recover to disrupt the back end of the play to make life miserable for the Blazers if they could maneuver into the paint.

Even before the game-changing third quarter, Green kept the Warriors in striking range in the first half. Getting easy transition buckets by relentlessly pushing the ball after the Blazers would score. He kept the window open for a Golden State run, and then decided to just kick the front door down instead.

“He was the difference-maker,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “What he did, he kept them going, even though we had a lead in the first half, his energy, the way he was pushing the ball, kept them going, and you know, he has such an impact on the game on both ends.”

Curry and Thompson get the headlines for the Warriors and rightfully so. Curry’s long-range shooting threat has helped the Warriors leverage easy baskets all series long. But it’s Green’s decision making that has helped Golden State take advantage of a team so concentrated on a Splash Brothers onslaught. Trap Curry, and Green will happily make the right play out as he rolls to the rim. Fail to get over a screen, and Green will deliver a pass with impeccable timing to capitalize on the mistake.  

“It’s an interesting challenge,” Blazers forward Moe Harkless said. “Because he so good playing with his teammates. He’s like the perfect fit for the guys around him.”

The Blazers have made their adjustments, and mostly they have been effective. They’ve ratcheted up the perimeter pressure on Curry and Thompson to take away the opens three-pointers Portland conceded in Game 1. Stotts inserted Meyers Leonard into the starting group in Game 3, a move that helped the Blazers get more space on offense and loosen up the Warriors defense with an additional long-range shooter and strong screen setter.

Those adjustments weren’t enough. In large part because Green is hard to scheme against. Daring a non-shooter to take unguarded jumpers can work, unless of course that non-shooter is driving the ball at full speed towards the rim, compromising a defense and finding his all-world teammates with uncanny timing. Avoiding an All-NBA defender on offense works, until he steps into passing lanes from the weakside or meets a drive in the paint with swarming ferocity.

The adjustments limited the easy splashes. They haven’t stop the wrecking ball. Green’s relentlessness has seemingly worn down the Blazers. Portland’s stars looked tired, Golden State looks to be rounding into title chasing rhythm.

“We just want to try to wear guys down over the course of 48 minutes,” Green said when asked if Golden State pressure had exhausted Lillard and Blazers teammates. “It's not necessarily that he's going to start the game gassed but if you can just wear him down over the course of 48 minutes, that makes those shots as the game goes on a little bit tougher.”

In the past, Green could be rattled. His biggest nemeses were the people with whistles, not those in opposing jerseys. Admittedly, Green said he “got to a point where I was doing more crying than playing.” His feud with the officials on hold, he can get back to making life miserable for his opponents. His multi-faceted brilliance has all but ended the Blazers seasons.

The Blazers have played back to back excellent first halves, they made subtle defensive adjustments and found a better solution in their starting lineup. Sometime this summer the Blazers may be able to appreciate what they accomplished during this run to West Finals. But that time isn’t now, because they’re seemingly out of moves and out answers. Their inevitable demolition is coming. They can’t avoid the wrecking ball.

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