After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half and 11 entering the fourth, the Golden State Warriors stormed back with a superb final 12 minutes to subdue the Portland Trail Blazers 110-99 on Tuesday at raucous Oracle Arena and take a 2-0 series lead.
Here are my five takeaways:
▪ No. 1: Championship-level defense hasn’t always been a part of Golden State’s arsenal during these playoffs. It showed up big time Tuesday night as the Warriors limited the Portland Trail Blazers to 12 fourth-quarter points on 5 of 16 shooting (26.3 percent)
In the first three quarters the Trail Blazers torched the Warriors with open perimeter jumpers and by creating chances off the pick-and-roll. Golden State did a better job contesting those shots late and put the clamps on hometown hero Damian Lillard, who had zero fourth-quarter points after scoring 17 in the third.
“We turned around what was a pretty bad game for us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Nights like tonight, they suck. It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you still go back in there with the (loss).
▪ No. 2: Warriors center Andrew Bogut played a tremendous Game 1 on both ends. In Game 2, not so much as Bogut’s legs seemed to lack their usual spring. Anderson Varejao wasn’t much help, unable to finish layups or protect the rim. So enter Festus Ezeli. After struggling in the Houston series and not leaving the bench in Game 1, Ezeli finished with eight points (all in the fourth quarter) and six rebounds in 13 minutes.
“(Ezeli) changed the whole game with his pick-and-roll defense, his presence around the rim and the energy he gave us,” Kerr said.
▪ No. 3: Klay Thompson doesn’t do angry. The Warriors shooting guard is way too laid back and laconic. But in the third quarter, his shot not falling for the first time in four games, Thompson became frustrated and drew a rare technical foul.
After missing several off-balance threes, one of which made Kerr visibly angry, Thompson regained his hot hand when Golden State needed it most. The all-star scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including a step back 28-footer with 5:33 left that gave the Warriors their first lead of the night.
“I took four or five bad shots in those first three quarters, but in the fourth I just let the game come to me,” Thompson said. “That’s when I’m at my best.”
▪ No. 4: These Trail Blazers are nothing like the Rockets. Unlike Golden State’s last playoff opponent, Portland plays with spunk and spine. When the Warriors trimmed what had been a 17-point deficit down to three late in the second quarter, sending fans into a frenzy, the Trail Blazers didn’t get flustered. Instead, they reeled off an 8-0 run in the span of three possessions. It was Golden State’s first halftime deficit at home of these playoffs.
▪ No. 5: Stephen Curry (right knee sprain) hasn’t played one minute in this series, but his presence hovers over everything. At least half the questions asked during Kerr’s pregame presser pertained to Curry, who could return as soon as Saturday’s Game 3. But that’s projecting since Curry has yet to take the court in five-on-five.
“We’re going to want to see him get up and down the floor,” Kerr said. “The question about 100 percent, 80 percent, whatever, it’s really more what the training staff tells us. Is he at risk of hurting it further? If he’s not and he’s at 80, 90 percent and they say, no, he can play, he should be fine and we’re not risking anything, then we’ll let him play.”