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5 observations from Warriors’ wild Game 2 comeback win over Blazers

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors came from behind to win an insane Game 2 vs. the Blazers on Thursday, 114-111. Here are five takeaways:

Warriors punt first half, rip out Blazers’ hearts in second

The final play was a perfect microcosm of Thursday’s game. Down three, Damian Lillard dribbled behind the 3-point line, facing up Andre Iguodala as he set up a move for a game-tying attempt. But as Lillard gathered to rise up, Iguodala ripped the ball, passed it to Stephen Curry, who threw it up in the air as time ran out. Iguodala stole the ball, and the Warriors stole the game.

In the first half, it looked as if this was going to be the latest in a long line of lackadaisical Warriors losses this season. This version of Golden State has shown themselves to have questionable effort when they don’t feel threatened, and after a relatively easy victory in Game 1, Thursday’s first half letdown wasn’t a huge surprise.

Golden State entered the break down 15, and trailed by as much as 17 in the second quarter. The Blazers were playing harder and made shots they missed in Game 1. The Warriors entered as seven-point favorites; they were two and a half point underdogs 30 minutes later.

But then Golden State took a page out of last year’s book, and went berserk in the third quarter. They outscored the Blazers 16-4 to open the frame, a stretch which also included a 13-0 run. By the start of the fourth quarter the game was tied.

The Blazers didn’t fold in the fourth, and kept things close until the final moments, including huge 3s by Seth Curry and Myers Leonard.

It wasn’t enough. The Warriors traded punches, finding themselves up three before that final possession. The loss is especially demoralizing for the Blazers, who only got two quarters of the Warriors’ best stuff, again without Kevin Durant, and couldn’t get it done. This was a game Portland had to win to make this a series, and the Warriors stole it.

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green offer all-world performances

Perhaps no player was as important down the stretch as Green, who was flying around on defense and made a handful of crucial assists, and a layup, in the closing minutes.

Green finished with a ridiculous line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. He was Golden State’s best player on both ends of the court.

That’s saying something, considering Curry again gave the Blazers problems, dropping 37 points, while adding eight rebounds, and eight assists. Curry has 73 points in 74 minutes in the first two games of this series.

Steph’s performance in Game 2 was perhaps more impressive than his Game 1, considering the Blazers tweaked their defense against him, forcing a 4-of-14 showing from the 3-point line. Speaking of which….

Portland tweaks their defense vs. Steph

The primary talking point after Game 1 had to do with Portland’s poor defensive strategy vs. Curry, and how they were going to tweak that moving forward. In Game 1, Portland elected to drop the big man when defending Golden State’s high pick-and-roll, leading to at least five instances where the two-time MVP had a wide open look and made it.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts was initially snippy when asked about it, but then conceded that his team needed to try something else, something his players were saying in the locker room after Game 1.

Portland did just that in Game 2, trapping Curry at the top of the key, and forcing a pass to the screener, often Kevon Looney or Green, to attack the defense or make a play. As it was for the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the strategy was largely effective. Though the Warriors still won, and Curry still got his numbers, getting the ball out of Steph’s hands without Durant is paramount for Portland to stay competitive.

Credit to the Blazers for making the tweak. It was almost enough to get the job done, and might be enough to win a game back home.

Blazers role players can’t make up for struggling stars

Lillard and C.J. McCollum had another uneven performance. The two finished with 23 and 22 points respectively, but shot a combined 15-of-39 from the field, their second-straight inefficient game in this series.

The Warriors deserve a large amount of the credit for hounding Lillard, rarely letting him dribble the ball without sending a double team. McCollum’s performance was a little less explainable. He went 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter, on almost exclusively open looks. He also led the Blazers with four turnovers.

The performances were nearly mitigated by standout efforts from role players Seth Curry (16 points on 5-of-9 shooting), Rodney Hood (12 points on 4-of-8 shooting), and Myers Leonard. Curry was especially effective, picking his brother three times in the back court, and going 3-for-3 from deep in the final frame.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the Blazers winning a game in this series if they don’t get a big performance from at least one of their stars.

Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins probably out for series 

The initial optimism that Durant would return for Game 3 of this series on Saturday, fell by the wayside Thursday afternoon. First there was an ESPN report that Durant was ‘not close’ to returning. Then GM Bob Myers made that chatter official minutes before pregame, announcing that Durant would not be traveling with the team to Portland for Games 3 or 4, and would be re-evaluated in a week. The same is true for DeMarcus Cousins, who is working his way back from a torn left quadricep sustained in the first round.

The Warriors showed again they are heavy favorites to win this series without both. The Warriors coasted in Game 1 largely because of the Blazers’ failure to defend Curry, who dropped 36 points and made nine mostly uncontested 3s. Portland switched things up in Game 2, trapping Curry in the pick-and-roll, forcing Steph to give up the ball, putting the onus on the rest of the Warriors to beat them. The strategy worked somewhat.

Without Durant as a bailout option, the margin for error shrinks, and players like Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green will have to pick up the scoring slack in games where Curry is being corralled. Will that be enough in Games 3 and 4? Only time will tell.

Though not sitting on the bench, Durant was around at halftime to dap up his teammates in tunnel.


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