Klay Thompson

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

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NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

June 14, 2019

Dear Scoop Journal,

This is my first journal entry since the Trail Blazers season ended and it seems fitting to write down my random Trail Blazers/NBA thoughts today since the season came to an end last night with the Toronto Raptors taking home the 2019 NBA Championship.

Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it, with all the injuries for the Warriors, and the celebrations in Toronto, here are my latest Blazers and NBA thoughts:

*Everyone I talk to today, I want to ask them this question: How bad did you wish you were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night in Toronto? (Toronto knows how to celebrate a championship!)

*First off, Congrats to Toronto and the Raptors fans on earning their first NBA Championship! I know I’m not alone in thinking Blazers fans are happy for their fellow northern neighbors.

*It’s so hard not to think about what it would be like here in Portland for the Blazers to win a title in the modern NBA era. Rip City will go absolutely crazy when the next championship happens here. This is something I think about often. Obviously, I can’t wait for that day!   

*There were so emotions for Golden State fans on Thursday night. It was the last game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors had just lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles a couple days before Game 6, and then Klay Thompson goes out with what we all later learned was a torn ACL.

*Injuries are the worst part of the game. You hate to see players go down with these horrific injuries.  

*And not to mention, Thompson and Durant will both become free agents this offseason. This summer is going to be very interesting and next season could now be wide open.  

*I saw a Blazer fan tweet this out on Thursday night and I think this is how every non-Warrior fan was feeling:

*For now, NBA fans wish for a speedy recovery to all the players who went down with major injuries this season.

*Let’s now shift our focus to the NBA Draft. Thursday evening can’t come soon enough. Who will the Blazers pick at No. 25? Or will Portland trade the pick in a package deal? We’re about to find out!

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2

OAKLAND – Entering Thursday’s Game 2, the Trail Blazers had talked about how they were going to make defensive changes and they also knew they had to knock down open shots.

On Thursday they did just that.

The Trail Blazers cleaned up the mistakes they had made in Game 1 and came out aggressive on the defensive end to make the Warriors more uncomfortable while not getting as many uncontested shots.

In the first half, the Blazers took control of the game, taking a 15-point lead into halftime. Yet, as everyone around the NBA knows the Warriors can score in bunches and quickly. Golden State started the second quarter on a 14-6 run to make it a game again. 

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts went deep into his bench and it worked out in the final quarter, just not enough. It came down to the wire, but the Warriors held onto beat the Blazers, 114-111.  

The series now shifts to Portland.

Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area that Kevin Durant (right calf) will not travel with the team to Portland for Games 3 and 4. Durant was re-evaluated on Tuesday night prior to Game 2. He suffered the calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors and Rockets series.

Final Box Score: Warriors 114, Trail Blazers 111

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 2 loss:

1. Blazers change up defensive pick and roll coverage

There were question marks heading into Game 2 regarding what the Blazers were thinking letting their bigs drop back so much and leave Stephen Curry so wide open on the pick and roll. Portland made adjustments in Game 2. The bigs were higher up on the screens not giving so much space and the Blazers were switching off ball screens more often than not. Plus, Portland’s defensive rotation was much quicker on Thursday night.

Portland was playing more aggressive on both ends and the scoreboard reflected it.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts also put Rodney Hood on either Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson for a majority of the game to put more length on Golden State’s guards.

2. Portland role players step up

Just like in the First Round series against the Thunder, when Damian Lillard drove to the hoop and got caught in traffic, he would kick it out to a wide open Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. And like in that First Round series, Aminu and Harkless hit from outside. The three-point shooting by the Blazers was far better than what they had done just two days prior. Portland set a playoff franchise record with 11 three-pointers in a half.

It says a lot that the Blazers held a 15-point halftime lead after Lillard scored just 10 points in the first half. The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard really didn’t getting going offensively until late in the second quarter.

Seth Curry was also a key piece off the bench for Portland on both ends of the court. When he was on the floor the Blazers were a plus-13.

Enough said.

3. Warriors tighten up in fourth quarter

The game was all tied up at 89 apiece heading into the final period. Coach Stotts went with a rotation change and played Meyers Leonard in the fourth. Leonard and Lillard had a good two-man game going in the final 12 minutes. Golden State also missed lay-ups and open shots. With Portland starting the quarter outscoring the Warriors 13-5, Golden State and Porltand was trading baskets until the end. 

It was almost like the Warriors didn’t know what to do when Leonard was knocking down threes and Seth Curry kept coming up with clutch steals, however, in the end Golden State came up with timely stops and buckets. 

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Warriors will tip-off Game 3 on Saturday night at 6:00pm. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 5:30pm.

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Klay Thompson explains love for Oregon, shares Michael Jordan memory

Klay Thompson explains love for Oregon, shares Michael Jordan memory

Despite facing the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, Klay Thompson remains an Oregonian at heart.

The Warriors shooting guard grew up in Lake Oswego, Ore., before moving to California when he was 14. He went to college at Washington State University and is a Pacific Northwest guy through and through.

During his media availability Wednesday, Thompson went long on his appreciation for the nature in Oregon and his favorite swimming spots in The Beaver State.

Never change, Klay.

The three-time NBA champion also told a story of the time he met Michael Jordan while attending a Blazers game in 1998.

Rasheed Wallace isn't a bad pick for favorite Blazer. I personally would have gone with Bonzi Wells, but you can't go wrong with Sheed.

Klay will at least get two games in Oregon during the series when the Warriors and Blazers play Games 3 and 4 at the Moda Center on Saturday and Monday.

With the way the Warriors played during their Game 1 win, the series might not make it back to Portland for Game 6. So, Klay will have to wait until the summer to go enjoy the nature in the PNW.

Blazers have a lot of problems to fix after Game 1 -- on offense and defense

Blazers have a lot of problems to fix after Game 1 -- on offense and defense

OAKLAND – You couldn’t blame Steve Kerr. It was just kind of a little slip, you know. He didn’t mean anything disparaging.

And he was probably correct, anyway.

Asked about how well his bench played during Tuesday night’s series-opening 116-94 win over the Trail Blazers, Kerr said, “And this series feels – feels like it’s a series where we can play more people.”

You really could, I think, take that statement to mean that the Trail Blazers weren’t going to make it as tough on Kerr’s Golden State Warriors as the Houston Rockets did in the previous series – when every possession seemed to hold great value. You could even assume he didn't believe the games would be close. But I know he didn't mean that -- although a good portion of the basketball public would probably believe that after what they saw Tuesday night.

Kerr was asked later about his statement.

“Yeah, as I said, we feel like this is a series where we can, and this is a strategy where we can use more bench players if we can, but we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

The way the Trail Blazers played, Kerr could have cleared his bench and put himself into the lineup. Portland Just wasn’t ready for this one.

There were glaring problems on offense and defense, although Coach Terry Stotts dismissed the defensive trouble, even though Golden State shot 50 percent from the floor and 51.5 percent from three.

“Well, to be honest, other than the fourth quarter, the game defensively was manageable,” Stotts said. “They got loose in the fourth quarter. But going into the fourth quarter down six, we were finding ways to hang in on a night when we were struggling offensively.

“Certainly they got loose. It’s a combination of how well they move without the ball and pick and rolls.”

Well, a lot of the time it was pick and rolls. Alarmingly so.

The Trail Blazers got Steph Curry going by covering the Warriors’ pick and roll as if Curry weren’t simply the best shooter in NBA history. Since the Golden State bigs most often setting the pick were either Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green – players who don’t make and don’t even take many threes – Portland center Enes Kanter played way off them.

But the problem with that was on the pick-and-roll plays, once Curry got around the pick, there was nobody there to occupy him because Kanter had dropped back.

Open threes for Curry = many quick points, and Curry had 33 by the end of the third quarter.

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

“If they see an opportunity to shoot a three, they are going to take it. They shoot it at a high clip. We’ve got to bring our guys up and run them off the line, and tonight, we were, you know, they were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots. You know, that’s the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team.”

CJ McCollum added, “pick-and-roll coverages were bad all night and they were rolling to the threes.”

On offense, there were almost too many problems to list. Yes, the turnovers hurt. The Trail Blazers had 21 of them, one-third by Lillard, and they cost Portland 31 points. And the guards didn’t shoot well, either.

Lillard and McCollum combined to go just 11-31 from the field and 3-10 from three-point range.

The Warriors made it look like last season’s New Orleans series with their coverage of Lillard. They blitzed his pick-and-rolls and they just outright double-teamed him in other situations. When he went to the basket, they fenced him in.

“They did a good job tonight defensively,” Lillard said. “And even when I was trying to find guys, they were getting deflections just because it was a crowd.

“They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that in this first game.”

The Blazers captured 16 offensive rebounds but got only 14 second-chance points, going 4-17 with their second-chance shots.

The Warriors had 17 fast-break points and the Blazers had just two.

Lillard and McCollum combined for 36 points, the exact number Steph Curry scored and Klay Thompson added 26 to the Warriors’ backcourt total.

All in all, the Warriors had plenty of opportunity to empty their bench. The Blazers did, too.

Obviously, for different reasons.

Zach Collins 'single handedly' ignites Trail Blazers in win over Warriors

Zach Collins 'single handedly' ignites Trail Blazers in win over Warriors

High-scoring.

Chippy.

Entertaining.

And then, there was a block that changed it all.

The Trail Blazers and Warriors showdown did not disappoint on Wednesday night as the two teams went at each other figuratively, and then literally in the final quarter.

Portland came out victorious 129-107 to even up the season series at 2-2. 

The run down block made by Trail Blazers backup center Zach Collins was what the players called a “game changer” and it was obvious that block on Damion Lee with 7:35 remaining in the game was a big momentum swing for the Blazers.

“That play was big and then he made other effort plays, emotional plays that fired up the team and the crowd,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame.

"I got blocked and I was running back down, I picked up head and the dude was going to the rim and I thought I could get there, so I just went up and gave it my best shot,” Collins said.

Less than four seconds later, the Blazers backup center drew an offensive foul after Klay Thompson went to the basket. Collins and Thompson exchanged words and there was a little shoving going on. Both were hit with offsetting technical fouls.

Damian Lillard knew how valuable both the block on Lee and taking the charge were in the Blazers getting the win.

“Both game-changing plays. I think the first thing you think about is a big shot or somebody getting dunked on or something like that as like an energy, game-changing play, but I think tonight those two plays is kind of what changed the game completely for us,” Lillard said.

Backup wing Evan Turner felt the same way about Collins’ performance as the Blazers’ second unit outscored the Warriors’ bench, 52-23

“He got a lot of extra possessions for us and he played tough. I think he single handedly changed the game,” Turner said.

Collins continued to get under the Warriors skin through the fourth quarter. Portland led 110-103 before Draymond Green was called for a Flagrant 1 on Collins with 3:54 left. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr stood up for Green and after yelling at the officials and throwing a clipboard, Kerr was ejected.

Lillard made the three technical shots and Collins made his free throws to give the Blazers a 115-103 lead.

Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant was asked about Collins’ performance after the game, to which KD simply replied with: “He played with a lot of energy. He played with a force, you know, blocking shots, the crowd got him hyped, so it is what it is.”

To KD, the crowd got Collins hyped. To Zach, he was getting the crowd hyped right before he was jarring with Thompson.

“I was just hyping up the crowd and then he came up to me, we just kind of went back and forth and that was it,” Collins said.

Coach Stotts said on Wednesday during his pregame interview that the newest edition to the roster, center Enes Kanter, will be the backup center for the Blazers and so with that it looks like Collins could be the odd man out.

But Collins isn’t letting that bother him.  

“I know what I bring to this team, so I’m gonna go out there regardless if I play two minutes or thirty minutes, I’m gonna go out there and play as hard as I can… Whatever happens with minutes happens. I’m excited that [Kanter] is a part of our team,” Collins said.

So no matter how much Collins sees the floor we can all look forward to more game changing hustle plays from the big man. 

Black Friday rout shines light on defensive issues

Black Friday rout shines light on defensive issues

OAKLAND – They call this Black Friday.

And it was a pretty dark day for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland finished off a disappointing 2-4 road trip by getting thrashed 125-97 by the Golden State Warriors.

Certainly, it wasn’t as disgraceful as the 43-point loss Wednesday night in Milwaukee, but with the Warriors languishing in a four-game losing streak and playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, there were expectations of something better coming from the Trail Blazers.

The Blazer defense was not up to par through most of the trip but this game was the worst. The Warriors shot 56.5 percent from the floor and 53.1 percent from three-point range.

Portland shot worse (54.5 percent) from the foul line than Golden State did from the field.

“(expletive),” said Jusuf Nurkic to open an interview. “We don’t look too good the last two games. Just not who we are. Who we believe we are. I thought before the road trip we felt pretty good about ourselves.

“Our offense isn’t clicking because of our defense. We need to play defense. That’s what happens. It’s a good wakeup for us. We need to come back home and see what we’re doing wrong and we just need to play better.

“Overall, it was the team losing. Pretty much from me, myself, not doing their job. We played against good teams but it doesn’t mean we’re not that good – or we’re not that bad, either.

“We just don’t look good out there right now. Right now, they overworked us, which is something we can’t be proud of.”

Portland held a 27-24 lead after the first quarter but the Golden State bench came on in the second quarter to blow the Trail Blazers away 35-17.

“I thought in the second quarter, Golden State’s second unit came in and played with a lot of energy,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Jordan Bell was running around and diving on balls. The Warriors were getting second-chance points, they picked up their defensive intensity and there was a lot of switching.

“I credit their second unit and the way they came in. I thought they changed the game.”

The Blazers turned the ball over seven times in the first half but the Warriors turned those into a whopping 19 points – a ridiculous total built on their barrage of three-point goals.

“They took advantage of every time we turned it over,” Stotts said. “To be honest, the Warriors were due for a game like this.”

When Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and company get it going from deep there’s not a lot that can be done.

Portland’s ball and player movement deteriorated from the first quarter through the rest of the game. But it was probably due to the problems at the defensive end.

“When you aren’t getting stops, you aren’t pushing the ball back at teams,” said Damian Lillard. “When you get a rebound, push it up the floor, now teams are trying to figure out who is guarding who and they aren’t in a set defense.

“When you’re taking it out of the net every time you’re playing against a set defense and you’re calling a play every time and their bench is echoing the call every time, trying to figure out what we’re calling.

“It’s easier to stop teams that way as opposed to the ball coming downhill at you.”

The Trail Blazers lost two games to open this road trip, then won two, then got clobbered in the final pair of games.

“It was disappointing to lose the first two,” Stotts said. “You look at each game individually and LeBron played an outstanding game. Minnesota made a trade and then played with a lot of life and energy.

“Then we got two good wins.

“Milwaukee is the best team in the league right now. But I think this is the most disappointing game of the trip because they had two guys out with injuries and we had a day of rest.

“This is the one we really needed to get.”

Black Friday.

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

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. 

Podcast:

Confident Trail Blazers look at first-round matchup with Golden State as 'opportunity'

Confident Trail Blazers look at first-round matchup with Golden State as 'opportunity'

In what most everyone else sees as an insurmountable obstacle, and perhaps the best NBA team ever assembled, the Trail Blazers view their first round playoff matchup with the Golden State Warriors as something much different.

“It’s a great opportunity,’’ coach Terry Stotts said Saturday, about 24 hours before Game 1 in Oakland. “We are glad we are here. It’s a good challenge to be facing the best team in the league right now … looking forward to upsetting the best team in the league.’’

In comparison to the Warriors (67-15), what the Blazers (41-41) lack in star power and depth they make up for in confidence.

Captain Damian Lillard, who was one of the best players in the NBA after the All-Star Break, has used a “shock the world” mantra in describing the Blazers’ mindset entering the best-of-seven series.

“We are coming out to win the series,’’ Lillard said. “Whether people are offended by that or not, that’s not our problem. We’ve worked hard to get here and we are not going to come in and just say ‘We are playing the best team, it’s not possible.’ We are going to go out there and play. We feel like we can beat them. If we don’t we shouldn’t go out there and lace up our shoes.’’

The Warriors finished with the NBA’s best record for the third straight season, and that included a 4-0 sweep of the Blazers, including a 45-point beatdown in December. But none of those meetings were when Portland had center Jusuf Nurkic, the 7-foot Bosnian who changed the Blazers’ season after being acquired in a Feb. 12 trade with Denver.

Whether Nurkic takes part in Game 1 is still up in the air, as the Blazers on Saturday listed him as questionable for the opener as he continues to heal from a fractured right fibula discovered on March 31.

Nurkic on Friday said if the decision were up to him, he will play, and although Stotts said Nurkic was not an “active participant” in Saturday’s practice, he said Nurkic was “involved.”

Lillard, meanwhile, smiled when asked questions about Nurkic, offering only a “no comment.’’

Whether Nurkic is able to play – and if so, how well he plays after being sidelined 15 days – figures to be central to the Blazers’ chances against the heavily favored Warriors.

The Blazers went 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup, his size boosting the team’s rim protection, and his passing skill and pick-and-roll savvy alleviating the pressure on the Blazers’ talented backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum.

His screening also provided added space for the Blazers’ sharp-shooters, which contributed to the Blazers becoming the NBA’s second best 3-point shooting team after March 1 (40.7 percent).

With Nurkic making a two-way impact, the Blazers after March 1 had the NBA’s second best record (17-6), which included road wins at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Atlanta and home wins over Houston, Utah, and Oklahoma City.

“He’s made a huge difference,’’ Lillard said. “You see how good of a team we are when he is on the floor. You see, since the break, since we got him, how we elevated our play because of the balance and how good he is on both ends of the floor.’’

Still, much of the Blazers’ chances rest in the hands of Lillard and McCollum, which is probably why Stotts separately called each of his starting guards to the side after Saturday’s practice in Portland. With McCollum first, then Lillard, Stotts sat on a bench and shared game film on a laptop, pointing out various nuances.

“We are going to need to be able to score, so we need to make sure we understand what gives us the best chance to score,’’ Stotts said later.

Of all the NBA playoff matchups, this might feature the most prolific set of guards.

Lillard averaged a career-high 27.0 points, the sixth highest in the NBA, and after the All-Star Break he averaged 29.7 points, second most in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook.

Meanwhile, CJ McCollum averaged a career-high 23.0 points and finished as the NBA’s top free-throw shooter at 91.2 percent.

They will be pitted against the Splash Brothers – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – with Curry as the former MVP and Thompson a noted defender as well as an accomplished shooter.

In last season’s playoff series, the Warriors often started with Thompson guarding Lillard, but this season they usually went with Curry on Lillard.

In three games this season against Golden State, Lillard averaged 23.3 points, but he historically has performed well against his hometown team. Last season in the Western Conference semifinals, Lillard averaged 31.8 points against the Warriors, which came after he scored what was then a career-high 51 points against Golden State in February.

Much of Lillard’s damage this season was done in attacks to the basket, usually after blowing by Curry. Lillard at the beginning of this season said Golden State “just didn’t look the same” defensively without Andrew Bogut protecting the paint, which Draymond Green said he took personally after the team’s first meeting on Nov. 1.

Green, of course, has become the leading candidate for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, playing what Lillard this week called “free safety” in the back of the Warriors’ defense. Lillard was clear to point out the Warriors have a great defense, specifically noting that Kevin Durant doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, but he added “I think we will be able to get our opportunities.’’

This is probably the biggest opportunity for the ascending McCollum to make a splash on the national scene. On the cusp of being a superstar, McCollum has at times carried the Blazers, with his scoring streaks often being the avalanche that buries an opponent.

Whether he can do it against the NBA’s second-rated defense, and in particular one of the NBA’s better defensive two-guards in Thompson, will be a subplot to the series.

“I know who I am as a player – I don’t worry about other players,’’ McCollum said. “But this is not about me and Klay, or Dame and Steph. It’s about the Blazers and Warriors.’’

As much bravado as the Blazers have shown leading up to the series, a confidence rooted in the fact they led Golden State for 56.1 percent of their five-game series last season and held double-digit leads in the final four games, they hold Golden State in reverence.

The Warriors own the NBA’s top offensive rating (113.2) and the second defensive rating (101.1). Their 11.63 point differential is the most since the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls and the fourth highest in NBA history.

In addition to leading the league in scoring, the Warriors led in assists, blocks, and steals. Their average of 30.4 assists is the most since the 1984-1985 Lakers.

“I don’t think anybody out there has us beating them, except us,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do.’’

For a Blazers team that six weeks ago was 11 games under .500 and spiraling toward a season of disappointment, a matchup against the Warriors isn’t daunting as it might seem.

“I’m sure people are expecting the worst, for us to go in there and get beat up on,’’ Lillard said. “But we are playing our best basketball of the season, and if we go in there and we swing first and show that we are here to win, and not just happy to make the playoffs, that’s when it will get interesting.’’

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Klay Thompson didn’t hit many of his shots Sunday, but he hit the most important one, helping the Golden State Warriors beat the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

Thompson missed 15 of his first 20 shots, but hit a back-breaking three-pointer with 37.5 seconds left to push the Warriors to a 113-111 win over the upstart Blazers.

Thompson finished 6-for-21 with 27 points and Kevin Durant had 33 points as Golden State improved to an NBA-best 41-7 after sweeping the four-game series against the Blazers 921-28).

Portland had a chance to win the game, but Evan Turner missed a three pointer in the final second after Portland was awarded the ball after offensive foul by Kevin Durant with 5.5 seconds left. Durant ran over Turner while trying to get open on an inbounds play.

Stephen Curry, who scored 43 points the night before against the Clippers, did not play for Golden State after experiencing the flu-like symptoms.

Portland, which was trying to win four in a row for the first time this season, played valiantly but couldn’t get enough stops late on Durant, who also added 10 rebounds and six assists.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 28 points while Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 13th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Damian Lillard added 19 points and eight assists for the Blazers and Evan Turner had 18 points and six assists.

Portland forged three ties in the second half but could never take the lead.  The last tie was at 93 with 6:32 left, but Andre Iguodala hit a three-pointer and the Warriors never looked back.

Portland never gave up after Thompson’s dagger three-pointer, making Golden State be nearly perfect from the free throw line. McCollum made a three-pointer with 17.8 seconds left, pulling the Blazers within 109-107. But Thompson made two free throws with 16.7 seconds left and with 10.0, putting the finishing touches on an 13-for-15 night at the line.

The game was tied as late as 68-68 with 5:12 left in the third quarter before Golden State closed strong behind consecutive three-pointers from Andre Iguodala to head into the fourth quarter leading 84-74.

The Blazers fought to within 53-50 at halftime after closing the half on a 20-2 run that was fueled by better defense and some hurried and undisciplined shot selection by the Warriors.

Lillard put the exclamation point on the run, hitting back-to-back three pointers then feeding Evan Turner for a layin.

Next up: Charlotte at Blazers, 7 p.m. Tuesday (CSN)