Warriors push Blazers to brink with impressive come-from-behind win
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland is a relatively friendly city. People regularly thank bus drivers as they get off at their stops. The business environment is more collaborative than competitive. And there’s no greater offense than being agro.
The Golden State Warriors did not mirror their host city’s disposition in Game 3 on Saturday.
Instead, they held out their former MVP (again), trailed for most of the contest, and then ripped the collective heart out of the sellout crowd in the Moda Center by taking over in the fourth quarter and winning, 119-113.
With the victory, the Warriors move within one game of advancing and sweeping the Trail Blazers out of contention.
“That’s what we do! You go after their heart!” Draymond Green screamed in the tunnel after the victory.
That isn’t courteous at all.
If the result was how things broke pregame, the Blazers would’ve won by no small margin. On one side, the Warriors were ruling out their head coach (Steve Kerr, who was “under the weather”), a former MVP (Kevin Durant), the guy who was signed to replace him (Matt Barnes) and a key veteran of the second-unit (Shaun Livingston).
Meanwhile, Portland fans were learning their trade-deadline savior, Jusuf Nurkic, would be available for the first time since March 30.
And that wave of momentum carried the Blazers well into the first half, when their lead grew to as many as 17 points.
The Warriors were fortunate to not be trailing more than 13 at halftime because Portland started its first home game of the postseason on fire — hitting 8 of their first 13 attempts from deep — while Golden State struggled to convert, at 41 percent through the first two quarters.
But all that turned around in the third, thanks to none other than JaVale McGee and Patrick McCaw — the heroes of Game 2. The Warriors backup center, fresh off a 7-for-7 performance, continued to provide a spark on Saturday, when he played 16 minutes but finished plus-24 — a game-high figure.
That, combined with Klay Thompson finding his shooting stroke — scoring 14 points in the third — and the Warriors had erased all but one point of their deficit heading into the final period.
Going on a 19-1 run tends to have that effect.
“Even if I shoot 20 percent, the next one’s going in. You’ve got to have that mindset,” Klay Thompson said, explaining how he could go from being broke to on fire in the span of minutes.
There was work left to be done in the fourth, but every time the Warriors needed a big shot, they got one. Earlier in the frame, it was certified Blazers killer Ian Clark hitting a runner in traffic despite being fouled. Later, in winning time, Stephen Curry drilled a pull-up 3-pointer to extend the Golden State lead to seven and effectively dispel any lingering hopes Portland could’ve been clinging to. (He followed that with another basket in traffic and a pair of free throws as he scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth.)
“Everything you’re taught about basketball is to get back on defense and protect the paint. You’ve got guys waiting on [Curry] at the 3-point line, and he pulls up four or five steps outside the 3-point line? It’s pretty impossible to guard,” Draymond Green explained. “… You’re at his mercy when he’s coming down like that.”
But what had started as a poor passing game for the Warriors — they threw just nine assists in the first half — ended as a reminder of how deadly this team can be when it takes care of the ball. Golden State committed just seven turnovers, which ties a franchise record for fewest in a playoff game.
And on the other side, Portland gave the ball away six times in the second half alone.
“You can’t give this team extra possessions,” CJ McCollum (32 points to lead Portland) said of the Warriors after the game.
Opponents talk about the Dubs differently. There’s so much deference, which isn’t something pro athletes conjure naturally. But after they improved to 3-6 in Game 3s over the last three seasons under the circumstances they did — shorthanded on the bench and on the floor — it makes you wonder what they could be capable of achieving next.
Whatever it is, it’s highly unlikely the Trail Blazers will be the one to pose a serious challenge to it.
BONUS MIKE BROWN JOKE
not every assistant coach can hit you with prepared jokes in pre- and postgame comments. Mike Brown is not every assistant coach. pic.twitter.com/Yh80IUlmXG
— jacob c. palmer (@jacobc_palmer) April 23, 2017
Contact Jacob C. Palmer at email@example.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.