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  • 27 Dec 2014

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Another painful loss for Blazers as Curry, Thompson bomb away

The hurt showed on Nicolas Batum's face nearly an hour after the Trail Blazers' stinging 113-112 loss to Golden State Sunday night at the Moda Center.

Batum could have been a hero -- or one of them for the local quintet -- had Portland pulled out a victory over the team just below them in the NBA's Western Conference playoff race.

But the Blazers' small forward failed twice in the closing seconds. Once, to tie the game on the second of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left. Then, after grabbing the rebound off the missed foul shot, to win it on a 15-foot fadeaway before the clock expired.

Neither shot fell, and the Blazers were out of luck again in another close defeat.

The last player to address the media in the Portland spoke with a barely audible voice after the fifth loss in six games for the Blazers (43-24), who had led by 18 points midway through the third quarter.

"Up 18 at home … we can't do that," said Batum, whose outstanding performance included 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals in 43 minutes. "Good first half. Great defense. We had a good lead in the third quarter. Then we let it go.

"They started making shots. We didn't get stops. We let them play like they want to play. We still had a chance to win the game, anyway."

Even with LaMarcus Aldridge on the sidelines with a sore back for the second straight game, the Blazers appeared headed to victory through most of three quarters.

They led by 14 points late in the second quarter and 72-54 midway through the third quarter before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson spurred a jail break for the Warriors (42-26).

Curry, nursing a sore quad muscle that had hampered him in recent games, missed his first five shots and was scoreless until hitting a pull-back jumper with 3:21 left in the first half.

From that point, Golden State's All-Star point guard scored 37 points, bombing in 28 points in the second half against a Portland defense that seemed somewhere between hapless and helpless.

"We knew they are an explosive offensive team," said Lillard, who had quite a game himself with 26 points, seven assists and no turnovers in 39 minutes. "They made a lot of 3's. We tried to expand our coverages, but Curry got hot. He hit some open ones, and that got him going. Then it seemed like everything started falling."

It wasn't just Curry, though he was the ringleader. Backcourt mate Thompson, who scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting in the first half, finished with 27 points, knocking in the game-winning 3-pointer with 11.1 seconds to go.

That gave Golden State a 113-111 lead, but there was still plenty of basketball to be played.

After a timeout, Lillard drove the lane and got to the basket for a contested left-handed layup that missed. Batum came out of the crowd with the rebound and was fouled on the put-back attempt with 5.8 seconds left.

Batum swished the first attempt, then was long on the second.

"It felt good," said Batum, an 82-percent foul shooter. "I was surprised I missed it."

The rebound found its way into Batum's hands, who quickly tossed up a turnaround shot that missed everything before the final horn.

As the Warriors spilled onto the court to celebrate, Batum raised his arms as if to indicate he had been fouled. Had he?

"No," he admitted afterward.

Did Batum consider calling timeout after getting the rebound off the missed gift shot?

"It went so quick, I didn't even think about it," he said.

Terry Stotts had no issue with Batum's decision to shoot.

"It's tough when the clock's counting down," the Portland coach said. "Everything happens so fast. The earliest he could have called timeout was at 2.5 (seconds left). It's easy to say what he should have done. He made a hell of an effort just to get" the rebound.

It was a particularly painful loss in that the Blazers played superbly for 2 1/2 quarters without the services of All-Star power forward Aldridge, who sat out his second straight game. It conjured visions of the Portland team that went 22-4 the first two months of the season, not the one that lost four in a row on a five-game road swing last week.

"We played a better game than we have been over the last seven, eight games," Lillard asserted. "This one wasn't a let-up the way games were last week. This was (losing to) a good team making shots. They played the better game down the stretch."

Curry and Thompson -- who had missed Friday night's 103-94 loss to Cleveland while attending the funeral of his grandfather in The Bahamas -- each scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors outscored the Blazers 36-27 over the final 12 minutes.

Golden State started the game 2 for 16 from 3-point range, then knocked down 9 of its final 14 attempts to finish 11 for 30 from beyond the arc.

Stotts used several players to defend Curry, including Lillard, Mo Williams and, over the final few minutes, Wesley Matthews. The Blazers played Curry without much help defense, though, or double-teams.

"You can say trap him, but that opens up other guys to the basket, other 3-point shooters," Stotts said. "Wes did a good job on him toward the end. The shots (Curry) made in the second half were tougher than the ones he missed in the first."

Said Lillard: "He's probably the best shooter in the league. When he gets a shot off a pick-and-roll, a lot of times he's going to make it."

"He's a superstar," Matthews said. "He has the ball from the moment they inbound the ball with the ultimate green light. We did a solid job on him in the first half. He came alive a little bit, but in the last four or five minutes, it wasn't him. Klay hit two big 3's."

Portland won seemingly every close game through the first half of the season, but the worm has turned. The Blazers are 2-7 in games decided by two points or fewer this season and 1-7 in their last eight games decided by five points or fewer.

"We won a lot of close ones earlier in the season," rationalized Portland center Robin Lopez, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. "It's just averaging out."

Lopez didn't seem shocked that the Blazers couldn't hold their 18-point third-quarter advantage, either.

"Those kind of leads evaporate in the NBA, especially since we're playing in an ultra-competitive conference," he said. "Coming down to the wire, (the Warriors) are fighting for their playoff rights. Things like that are going to happen. Even with that, we still had a chance to win the game."

Stotts, though, was having trouble with coming to grips with blowing that kind of edge.

"We have to figure out a way to close out a game," the second-year Portland mentor said. "When we have an 18-point lead, we can't take our foot off the gas."

There were high spirits in the visitors' locker room afterward.

"As good a win as we've had in three years," said Mark Jackson, in his third season as Golden State's head coach. "I'm awfully proud of the guys. It would have been very easy to fold our tent and hang our heads. It's just a great win for us."

"I'm speechless, especially the way we won," said Thompson, the son of former Blazer great Mychal Thompson. "We were down and out in the third quarter. It shows the resilience of this team and the unselfishness. And Steph did his thing, of course."

The Warriors (42-26) moved within a 1 1/2 games of Portland, which stands in fifth place in the Western Conference playoff race.

"A lot of teams right now are fighting to get into the playoffs," Lillard said. "We're trying to stay where we are, if not jump up. Every game is going to be like this, especially against a Western Conference team that is capable like Golden State.

"(The Warriors) could easily be a three-seed in the West; that's the type of team they are. We know a lot of these games are going to come down to the last two minutes. We did a good job. We missed some shots, but we made plays and gave ourselves a chance to win."

NOTES: Portland's next action is Tuesday night at home against Milwaukee. … The Blazers were hurt by a pair of technicals over the final six minutes, one on Stotts and one on Williams. The two free throws made by Curry -- who was 9 for 9 from the line in the game -- proved the difference. "My technical, I didn't say anything," Stotts said. "I just pointed at the other end. Mo was just trying to make a point. … (but) it's easy to look back on a one-point game and look where points came from." … Batum was asked if the Blazers have lost some confidence. "Why?" he asked. "We're without our best player and a big guy (injured reserve center Joel Freeland). We're up against a good team. (The Warriors) had all their players. We lose by one." … Lillard was asked if opponents are able to focus their defense more on him with Aldridge missing. "They lock me in even when I don't have the ball," he said. "They're concerned about where I am. And when I do have the ball, they're loading up. I have to be aggressive and attack that so they don't take me out of the game."

Lopez (14 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his 40th double-double of the season. Batum had his 11th double-double and became the first player in franchise history to get back-to-back games with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four 3-pointers. He was 5 for 9 from downtown. … Batum has seven games in March with 12 or more rebounds, more than any player in the NBA. … Lillard was only 1 for 6 on 3-point shots but has made 182 this season, three short of the franchise mark of 185 he set as a rookie. … Lillard has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. … Dorell Wright started in place of Aldridge, scoring 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range. Portland was 12 for 28 (.429) from beyond the arc. … Williams returned after missing two games with a hip injury, scoring 12 points with four assists in 31 minutes. … The Trail Blazers and Warriors entered the night ranked 2-3 in the league in 3-pointers attempted. Asked pregame if that meant to expect a lot of 3-pointers to be taken, Jackson cracked, "You put two and two together, three happens."

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