The Portland Trail Blazers made a run late in the first half of Tuesday’s Western Conference finals opener, trimming a 10-point Golden State Warriors lead to 48-45, seemingly shifting the momentum of the game before halftime.
Stephen Curry had other ideas.
With just under 40 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Curry drained a 3-pointer to double the Golden State lead.
When Damian Lillard turned the ball over on the other end, Curry made the Blazers pay, sinking another 3-pointer to pump Golden State’s lead back up to nine in a sequence that would define Game 1.
From that moment, the Trail Blazers wouldn’t truly threaten the Warriors again as Curry led Golden State with a dominant performance in a 116-94 win to open the series.
Curry big again with Durant absent
Absent Kevin Durant, the Warriors once again leaned on their two-time MVP point guard to lead the way as Curry and Klay Thompson thoroughly outplayed Portland’s backcourt counterpart of Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Curry caught fire from distance, hitting 9-of-15 3-pointers while tallying 36 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in a game he was able to comfortably watch the ending of from the bench.
Thompson, meanwhile, tallied 26 points in a game where Lillard and McCollum struggled to keep pace.
Lillard, McCollum handily outplayed
Billed as the marquee matchup of the series, Golden State reminded everyone that its backcourt duo is the best in the series and the best in the NBA.
Lillard struggled from the field, hitting 4-of-12 shots to total 19 points with 6 assists and 4 rebounds. He also turned the ball over seven times.
It’s the second straight game Portland’s best player had trouble finding the bottom of the net. He finished Sunday’s Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets hitting 3-of-17 field goal attempts. But in that game, McCollum bailed him out with a brilliant 37-point performance to sink the Nuggets.
There were no McCollum heroics on Tuesday as Portland’s second option hit 7-of-19 shots en route to 17 points while hitting just 1-of-5 3-point attempts.
Warriors clamp down on defense
While Curry and Thompson appeared to score at will, the Warriors continually made life hard on the Trail Blazers. Portland turned the ball over 21 times and shot 36.8 percent from the field. The league’s most accurate 3-point shooting team in the regular season shot 7-of-28 (25 percent) from distance.
The Warriors, meanwhile, hit 50 percent of their field goals and were even better from distance, hitting 17-of-33 3-point attempts. Curry regularly found himself open behind the arc and made Portland pay.
The Warriors looked in peak form and the Blazers looked tired, which would be understandable after finishing a grueling seven-game series in Denver just two days ago.
Warriors look just fine without Durant
It was more of the same from Golden State since Durant suffered a calf strain late in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets.
Instead of caving behind what could have been a devastating injury, Golden State has simply reverted to the form is displayed prior signing Durant as a free agent. Curry remains one of the league’s most lethal weapons and is able to fully display his arsenal without having to share the ball with Durant.
Durant may return for this series, but he’s not likely to take the court for Thursday’s Game 2. The Warriors certainly would like to see their two-time NBA Finals MVP back in action. But it serves as great comfort for the team to know they can still dominate in the playoffs without him.
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