Steve Kerr

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

It was a great season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you anything different.

It doesn’t really matter that the Golden State Warriors completed the sweep of the Trail Blazers with a 119-117 overtime win Monday night in the Moda Center.

In the big picture, it’s meaningless, really. The Blazers weren't going to win the championship, anyway. The Warriors were always going to be too much for them and perhaps everyone else in the league.

The Trail Blazers accomplished too much this season to allow the outcome of this series to spoil what they did.

This was a team that Las Vegas figured might win 42 games. It was a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs and, after the devastating injury to Jusuf Nurkic certainly wasn’t expected to win many playoff games, let alone a series.

But the Blazers won enough to capture the third seed in the Western Conference, then knocked off Oklahoma City in five games and won a seventh game on the road to decide their series with the Denver Nuggets.

This was a big step for this team, which can now go into next season knowing they were in the NBA’s Final Four and played the defending champions tough in three of the four games.

“I think it’s more than just the playoff run,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “I think the fact that we had a very good regular season, the fact that we were able to win two series, we were competitive in this series, even though it was a sweep – we played competitively.

“But I think (next season) is a long way away from now. I think when that time comes, we’ll be able to reflect. I think it’s a little too early to look at how this series helps us right now. Right now, it kind of stings.”

Damian Lillard, the captain, was not at all reluctant to put this accomplishment in perspective.
“It’s the Western Conference finals,” he said. “The other night after our game, I was looking for another game on TV and I was like, there’s two series going on right now and we’re one of them. For me, we’ve shown what we’re capable of. We can get it done. And our route here was as hard as anybody’s.
“We played the Thunder, great team. We played Denver, great team. So it wasn’t like we just eased our way in. We earned this. We got here. I think we showed this is who we are.

“This is what we’ve capable of. It’s not like some random thing. We’re in the playoffs every year. We bounce back every year regardless of how it ends. And this year we pushed it even further. So I think we showed we have it in us.

“So now we take this experience and move forward again. Obviously, you don’t want to go out with a sweep. We could have easily won every game. We just didn’t. Just got to keep going.

“We’ve shown that what we’ve been believing in and what we hang our hats on, works. That has taken time. We’ve invested a lot in our culture and our togetherness and that stuff. We’ve proven that works.

“We just ran up on a high-powered team and we still played well enough to beat them, but it was just those small lapses, those stretches when you give a game away against a team like that.”

Monday’s Game 4 was a lot like the previous two games, Portland frittered away a 17-point lead in the face of a Warrior charge and missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Lillard’s right-handed hook shot trickled over the rim and then had another game-winner at the end of overtime when his three-pointer from the right corner missed.

What separated this game from all the others in the series, though, was the emergence of Meyers Leonard, not only in the starting lineup for the second straight game, but as a major factor in the game.

Leonard played 40:11, scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead his team in both categories. He was 10-12 from the field in the first half with 25 points but got only four shots in the second half.

But for a man whom Stotts had buried on the Blazer bench for a good portion of his seven seasons with the team, it was a big coming-out party.

And it left serious questions about why he hasn’t been used more frequently by a team that often hungers for another outside shooter. Leonard hit 5 of his 8 three-point shots in the game.

“Again, he, the first half was outstanding,” Stotts said. “Twenty-five points and he was playing with a lot of confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3. And again, he played well and I’m happy for him.”

I would say Leonard was outstanding for more than the first half, he just didn’t get the ball much after intermission and that wasn’t his fault. Stotts normally throws compliments Leonard’s way about as frequently as it snows here in July.

But Golden State Coach Steve Kerr was willing.

“Meyers Leonard was fantastic,” Kerr said. “I thought the game softened up when Meyers Leonard started making threes. We had to make some adjustments and as soon as we did that, Damian’s eyes lit up. He started to see single coverage and he got going.”

The Warriors got their usual triple-double from Draymond Green, and it included a big three-pointer in overtime. Steph Curry also chalked up a triple-double that included 37 points and 13 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers have exit interviews scheduled for Tuesday and there will be full written and video coverage on this website.

And with that, a season that could almost qualify as magical, comes to an end.

Portland was the story of the playoffs, but got overwhelmed by Warriors

Portland was the story of the playoffs, but got overwhelmed by Warriors

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

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

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

The Trail Blazers made a larger leap.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Portland, they haven’t been this far in the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season, long before Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were hoisting triples at Moda Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 4

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 4

PORTLAND – It all comes down to this. Portland now faces elimination as the Trail Blazers get set for Game 4 vs. the Golden State Warriors tonight. The Blazers are looking to avoid the sweep and have said they are playing for pride.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media before tonight’s game got underway.

Coach Stotts discussed how he believes the Warriors deep playoff experience has helped them in this series.

“I think their experience certainly has shown, there’s no question; how they ramped it up in the third quarter in Game 2 and to come back from an eight-point deficit with four-and-a-half [to play], I think they showed the mettle that helped them win their championship.

Tonight facing elimination, Stotts thinks it all comes down to the mental part of the game.

“We have made some changes that have been effective… I think understanding the mentality coming out of halftime, whatever it is, approaching this as a Game 7… I think it’s a much more a mental disposition than it is Xs and Os and strategies right now. 

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

Warriors Injury Update: Coach Kerr confirmed Andre Iguodala (left calf) will not play tonight. Iguodala was initially listed as questionable.  

Kerr also mentioned Alfonzo McKinnie, Quinn Cook, and Jonas Jerebko will all most likely see more minutes with Iguodala out.

Hear from Coach Kerr right here:

Former Oregon Ducks star and Parkrose High School hero Keanon Lowe also talked to the media prior to Game 4.

Lowe tackled an armed student at Parkrose on Friday afternoon.

“I’ve grown to love that place,” Lowe said after coaching football at Parkrose for only a year.

“We were in the headlines and it wasn’t a tragedy. I’m thankful for that,” Lowe said.

Hear the entire Lowe interview right here:

 

'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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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 3

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 3

The best-of-seven series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors now shifts to Portland. As the Blazer and Warriors get set for Game 3, the Moda Center is full of energetic Portland fans and more media members than the arena as seen in years.

 

This is the first Western Conference Finals game in Portland in 19 years. To say fans are pumped would be an understatement.

 

Before Game 3 tipped off, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media.

 

Coach Stotts said his team “feels encouraged” by Game 2 and he doesn’t expect any kind of let down after losing a game in such a heartbreaking fashion.

 

Meyers Leonard is listed as the starter tonight for Portland. He will start at center, while Enes Kanter will come off the bench. 

 

Hear from coach Stotts right here:

 

Even though Coach Kerr wouldn’t discuss his starting lineup, the news broke on social media that the Warriors are changing their lineup up tonight.

 

Warriors starting lineup change:  Golden State is going to start center Damian Jones in place of Andrew Bogut, as reported by NBC Sports Bay Area.

 

Coach Kerr did say he doesn’t expect any big changes from the Blazers. He said the first two games were very competitive and he expects more of the same in Game 3.

 

Hear from Coach Kerr right here:

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Did the Warriors "steal" that game or did the Blazers just hand it to them?

Did the Warriors "steal" that game or did the Blazers just hand it to them?

OAKLAND – The first words out of Steve Kerr’s mouth in the post-game press conference Thursday night were, “We stole that game.”

You could certainly make the case that Portland should have defeated Kerr’s Golden State Warriors, but it’s not really a steal when someone leaves the keys in the car with the motor running, then opens the door and invites you behind the wheel.

Before losing 114-111 to the Warriors, the Trail Blazers held a 17-point lead in the first half. They led by 15 at halftime before a horrendous third quarter left them tied.

But they still built an eight-point lead when Meyers Leonard hit a three-point field goal with 4:28 left in the game. But Portland would hit just one more basket the remainder of the game, a Seth Curry three with 1:03 to go that lifted the Blazers into a one-point lead.

This was a game that was right there for the Trail Blazers to win and they didn’t. And it was just as much their fault as anything the Warriors did.

Portland got big contributions from its bench. Curry scored 16 points and went 3-3 from the field in the final quarter. Rodney Hood scored 12 and Leonard, who didn’t even play in Game One, played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and finished with seven points, six rebounds and two assists.

The Trail Blazers made 18 three-point field goals and Golden State hit just nine and that stat alone would decide about 90 percent of NBA games. In other words, the Blazers had 27 more points from long range than Golden State.

But the third quarter, when the Warriors forced five turnovers and turned them into a whopping 13 points, vaulted Golden State back in the game.

Then, in the deciding fourth quarter, Portland managed to make just 8 of its 23 shots, including only 5 of 14 from long range. And the Warriors outrebounded the Blazers 16-9 in the final quarter.

Damian Lillard went 2-6 in the fourth quarter and CJ McCollum was 0-6. They combined to go 1-9 from three over those 12 minutes, too.

And the Warriors gave Portland fits with the Steph Curry-Draymond Green pick-and-roll and allowed some layups.

And that went a long way toward the Warriors’ “steal” of Game 2 of the series.

Lillard had an opportunity for a game-tying three-point shot at the end but couldn’t get it off against Andre Iguodala, on what looked to be a steal but was officially called a blocked shot in the play-by-play.

“Honestly, we were out of timeouts,” Terry Stotts said. “Just it wasn’t – we just got to get a shot up. You know, get him the ball. It’s a tough situation to be in. We couldn’t necessarily run a play but I thought he did the best job he could as far as trying to get a three up.”

Lillard maintained he was fouled on the play.

“You know, I got the ball,” Lillard said. “I think they knew we needed a three. I think it was under 10 seconds by the time I got a catch, and a quick two – we didn’t have any timeouts left. I don’t think that would have done much for us.

“We knew we were going to go for the three, so I was just trying to get space to get a three up. I know it’s a tough position for the referees to be in to make a call at that point of the game. I tried to get a little bit of space the first time and he grabbed my arm and I lost the ball a little bit. I regained it and I was going to shoot it again.

“But he got his hand on the ball.

“For me, as the offensive player, I felt like it was contact. There was a lot of contact. But obviously, the ref is not going to decide the game or jump in at that point. You know, so they – good defensive play.”

Iguodala explained his side of the play:

“Well, you look at the time and situation, up three, so the one thing that you don’t want to do is give up a three. You actually can take risks outside the three-point line and be extra aggressive. The key is not to give that up. If the guy drives by you, then you still have the lead. When you look at it that way, it wasn’t that good of a play.

“I just take odds on what you want to do and if the odds are in your favor, then for something like that to happen outside the three-point line.”

McCollum has a philosophical way of looking at games like this one – a pretty unbiased summary in most cases.

“I think it’s just a make-or-miss league,” he said. “We got some good looks. I personally had some good looks. I had an open three I missed, and I had a floater I missed late.

“They played good defense, but I can live with the shots I missed every day of the week and I think, you know, offensively we had some pretty good possessions.

“We just didn’t finish them.”

And didn’t finish the game well, either.

They have two more chances, next up at Moda Center – Saturday and Monday.

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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.

Warriors wanted to sleep, but couldn't resist Blazers-Nuggets marathon

Warriors wanted to sleep, but couldn't resist Blazers-Nuggets marathon

by Monte Poole

HOUSTON – Steve Kerr had a plan late Friday night, but it was foiled by a group of men toiling nearly 2,000 miles away.

“I wanted to go wanted to go to sleep,” Kerr said after shootaround Saturday. “But I couldn’t, just like everybody else.”

Shaun Livingston had the same plan. The veteran guard’s eyes wanted to close, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Yeah, I was ready,” he said. “But that game kept up.”

“That game” was Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal in Portland between the Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets. It went into overtime. Then another OT. Then a third. And, finally, a fourth before the Blazers prevailed, 140-137.

Despite the two-hour time difference – which put the end of the Portland-Denver game well past 1 a.m. in Texas – the Warriors were watching because they have a 2-0 series lead over Houston in the other conference semifinal.

“I was in bed early, getting my sleep,” veteran wing Andre Iguodala joked. “It’s important for our four-OT game, right?”

Then came the truth, as it usually does with Iguodala.

“Nah, it was exciting basketball, two teams fighting it out. No subs. Just gutting it out.”

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic played 65 of a possible 68 minutes. Portland got 60 minutes from CJ McCollum and 58 from Damian Lillard.

Asked if he could imagine playing 65 minutes in a game, Kerr demurred.

“No. That was usually my totals for the postseason, in 20 games,” he said, not bothering to point out that he made three starts in 128 playoff games. “(That was) incredible. Both teams, the resilience. That was a great basketball game.”

Might being riveted to a game late Friday affect the Warriors on Saturday night for Game 3 against the Rockets? They don’t think so.

“The guys are young,” Kerr said. “They’ll get over it quickly. They’ll be all right.”

Kerr pointed to “getting some early stops” as the first indication of how mentally and physically the Warriors will be.

“We’ve got be ready to take their initial punch and be ready to counter,” Iguodala said. “I’m sure they’ll come out throwing blows, being ready. I’m sure that’s the message that was sent through the whole team, no matter who’s in the game. We’ve got a must-win situation.

Blazer bench puts aside worries -- knocks out Warriors in 4th

Blazer bench puts aside worries -- knocks out Warriors in 4th

The Portland Trail Blazers’ crowded bench has had a lot to think about over the last 10 days. Two players have been added and neither is expected to be a starter, barring an injury.

There is uncertainty about the future.

But that group put aside worries about playing time and went out Wednesday night and earned playing time – by knocking out the Golden State Warriors with a 35-12 fourth quarter that led to a 129-107 win.

It marked the first time in 23 tries the Trail Blazers have won a game when trailing heading into the fourth quarter. And the second season in a row when Portland has captured two wins over the defending NBA champs.

But they had to fight to get this one. Almost literally. Golden State doesn’t go down easy.

But trailing by a point to begin the final period, Coach Terry Stotts sent out an all-bench group of Evan Turner, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman, Zach Collins and Seth Curry.

Each of them had their moment during the fourth-quarter surge that put the game away.

The biggest imprint was made by Zach Collins, who had a monster blocked shot that saw him race the length of the court to block a Damion Lee layup at the rim – a true momentum-changing play.

“I was looking at it from the bench and I didn’t even see Zach coming,” Damian Lillard said. “So for him to make that play and then back it up with another defensive play, instead of patting himself on the back, that was huge for him but that’s huge for our team.

“I think it kind of turned the game completely in our favor.”

The follow-up play Lillard was talking about was drawing an offensive foul from Klay Thompson just a few seconds later.

That led to a faceoff between Collins and Thompson at the other end of the court that finished with each getting called for a technical foul.

By then, the Blazers were off and running, with Layman entering into another of his rampages where he’s popping up all over the court. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter – was a plus-23 in the 12 minutes – while making five of six shots. All 17 of his points came in the second half.

He is on a terrific run and was asked after the game if his recent play surprised even himself.

“No,” he said. “I’ve always known I could play. I know what I can do.”

The game broke wide open when Draymond Green was called for a flagrant foul on Collins with 4:16 to play and Portland holding a seven-point lead.

That prompted two quick technical fouls on Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who fired a clipboard in disgust, followed by his ejection.

Lillard made the two technical foul free throws, then another one when Green was hit for yet another technical.

Collins then stepped to the line and canned two more foul shots. A few seconds later, Layman knocked down a three-point field goal, followed by a three-pointer from Lillard that came from somewhere near the Lloyd Center and Portland had a 23-point lead.

Game over.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Kerr, whose team played without resting DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston. “They battled like crazy, you know really tough schedule with the back-to-back. There’s three guys out and I thought our guys really fought. It’s one of the reasons I was really frustrated …”

Stotts was pleased, quite obviously, with what he saw.

“Really proud of our team,” he said. “Obviously, the guys that came off the bench really played well in the second  -- well, the first half and the second half.”

Stotts was asked about staying with his bench, other than insertion of Lillard for Turner, in the fourth quarter.

“It’s going to be a transition,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of good players who are able to contribute to winning. Obviously, the bench guys played well.

“You know, with five or six minutes to go in the game, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do to finish the game. But the guys on the floor answered it for me.”

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors

It’s the final game before the NBA All-Star break for the Trail Blazers as Portland hosts the Golden State Warriors.

Before tonight’s game tipped off from Moda Center, Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts and Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media.

The big Trail Blazers news of the day: Center Enes Kanter has agreed to a deal with Portland after being waived by the Knicks last week.

Coach Stotts talked about how Kanter will be the backup 5 (center) and will play considerable minutes. Stotts also discussed what the big man will bring to this Blazers team.

“He’s a bona fide player in this league. You look at his body of work, he’s a great rebounder, a great offensive rebounder, he can score and get rebounds in a short amount of time. I think the role that we have for him will really be good for him, and good for us, as far as providing a different dimension off our bench,” Stotts said.

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

 

Warriors Injury Report vs. Blazers: DeMarcus Cousins (load management), Jacob Evans (left pelvis), Damian Jones (left pectoral), Shaun Livingston (load management), and Andre Iguodala (load management) are out.

Coach Kerr said it is going to be a challenge to handle Jusuf Nurkic without DeMarcus Cousins tonight:

“We’ll miss [Cousins] in dealing with a very large center with Nurkic who is very capable of drawing a lot of fouls… It’ll be a team effort tonight down there,” Kerr said.

Backup center Kevon Looney will start in place of Cousins.

You should also expect former Oregon Duck Jordan Bell to get considerable minutes vs. the Blazers. Coach Kerr said Bell should come off the bench and bring the energy they will need in a second night of a back-to-back.

Hear from Coach Kerr right here: