Will the Blazers ever lose again?
I said it nonchalantly to a friend sometime shortly after the All-Star break, as the Trail Blazers began to mount a win streak that climbed to nine games Saturday night at Moda Center.
"I'm not sure they won't win out the rest of the regular season," I said.
Sure, I was being somewhat facetious. Portland still had 20-some games left on the schedule.
But I'm almost beginning to believe it.
OK, Stephen Curry wasn't in Golden State's lineup, the victim of a sprained ankle a night earlier in the Warriors' 110-107 win over San Antonio. And several of his injured teammates were missing, too, including front-line reserves Andre Iguodala, Jordan Bell and David West.
Even so, the way the Blazers hammered the defending NBA champions — who were riding a seven-game win streak of their own — was impressive.
The final count was 125-108, a bit misleading in that Golden State (51-15) trailed by one point with 8 1/2 minutes left and was still in it until getting outscored 15-5 over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
But the Blazers (40-26) confidently put away a team that featured All-Stars Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson with Curry back home rehabbing his ankle in the Bay Area.
No apologies were being offered from the Blazers for Curry's absence.
"We can't control who plays," said CJ McCollum, who combined with backcourt mate Damian Lillard for 58 points. "We can't control who we play against. We just show up and try to get wins."
The Blazers are doing a beautiful job of that right now, having climbed from No. 8 in the Western Conference playoff race a couple of weeks ago to the No. 3 perch behind Houston and Golden State. They've been knocking off all comers during this streak, against some weak sisters but also against West playoff contenders such as Utah, Minnesota and Oklahoma City.
Coach Terry Stotts feigns ignorance of his team's win streak, the franchise's longest since reeling off 11 straight in November 2013.
"What streak?" Stotts asked rhetorically. "We're just playing games. We're just trying to get wins. As close as the West is, you just have to keep getting wins."
Pressed on the subject, Stotts relented, but only a bit.
"We're all very much aware of what the standings are," he said. "There's not a team in that group from 3 to 10 that has the luxury of getting too excited about anything, one way or the other. All eight of those teams are battling. There's not a lot of room to breathe."
With 16 games to play, Portland's cushion is still only four games over Denver and Utah, who are tied for No. 9 in the conference at 36-30. A game and a half back of the Blazers is New Orleans (38-27), with San Antonio (37-28), Minnesota (38-29) and Oklahoma City (38-29) in a virtual tie for fifth. The Los Angeles Clippers (35-29) are in eighth place, percentage points ahead of the Nuggets and Jazz.
"I'm proud (of the win streak), but we've got to keep going," said Lillard, who scored 28 points despite 8-for-21 shooting and dished out eight assists. "Lately, there's been a different level of focus. It's more intense. There's a different level of excitement amongst our team.
"We win a game and we're moving on to the next one. That tells me we're not soaking in our success and being proud and patting ourselves on the back. We've been able to make this kind of run because of that."
McCollum scored 30 points on 10-for-19 shooting, making 5 of 9 3-point attempts. He and Lillard provided the bulk of the offense and the on-court leadership.
But they got plenty of help. The Blazers owned the backboards, 46-33, setting the tone with a 16-3 advantage in the first quarter. They had 14 offensive boards, including six in the first period, and won the battle of second-chance points, 26-8.
"We felt like our offensive rebounding was going to be an advantage for us," Stots said. "(The Warriors) are not necessarily a good defensive rebounding team. We felt the extra possessions were going to be important."
Portland's bench outscored its Golden State counterparts, 47-18. Four Blazer reserves scored in double figures — Evan Turner and Zach Collins with 12 points apiece and Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier with 10 points each.
Davis was 4 for 5 from the field and also ripped down a season-high 15 rebounds — seven off the offensive glass — in just 26 minutes. It was the latest in a series of effective performances from the eight-year veteran.
"He's having a career year," Lillard said. "His impact on the game is crazy."
Lately, it's been the same with Collins. The 7-foot rookie from Gonzaga was 5 for 6 from the field, including a 3 early in the fourth quarter after the Warriors had drawn to within 89-87. Collins also had four rebounds and a big steal late in the game to help secure the win.
Stotts used Davis, Collins and Turner along with Lillard and McCollum when the issue was still in doubt in the final period. The coach has done that several times during the win streak.
"(Davis and Collins) play well together," Stotts said. "They have a good skill set to complement one another. They have good defensive instincts. Zach is coming into his own as a perimeter shooter.
"I thought about bringing (Al-Farouq Aminu) and (Jusuf Nurkic) back. They have been a big part of our team. It's a tough decision, but I'm glad it worked out."
The Blazers overcame a 40-point outburst by Durant and 25 points from Thompson and led most of the game.
Portland was on top 61-52 at the half, but Golden State came on with a rush, going ahead 83-77 late in the third quarter. The Blazers followed with a 10-0 spurt to carry an 87-83 edge into the final period, and never trailed again.
Golden State was within 92-91 when Napier converted a four-point play with 8:32 to go. That touched off a 12-2 spurt that gave Portland a 104-93 lead with 6:44 left. The Warriors got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"We know they take over games and dominate third quarters," Lillard said. "They came out and made a run for it, but I really liked how we weathered the storm. We fought it and still ended the third quarter with the lead. Then in the fourth quarter, we made the plays, got the stops and did what we had to do to win the game."
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was not happy with his players' smarts Friday night, pointing to a number of bad fouls. The Blazers were fouled four times on 3-point attempts, for instance.
"That's what bothered me the most," Kerr said.
Portland closed the second quarter on an 11-2 run, similar to the late-third quarter 10-0 tear.
"Those were really key points in the game," Kerr said. "We fought hard. I liked our competitive spirit, but you have to be smarter. We did not play a smart, focused game, and it cost us."
The Blazers weren't overly jacked up about beating the Warriors, maintaining a "more work to do" attitude.
"It was a win we needed to have with how close the standings are right now," McCollum said. "Every game from here on out is crucial, especially at home.
"We're just trying to figure out a way to get through each game with a win, to protect the homecourt and extend our lead on the other teams in the race."
Only 16 more to go to close out the season on a 25-win roll. Who knows?
NOTES — Portland's next action is against Miami at 7:30 p.m. Monday, the third of a five-game homestand ... Portland is 15-1 in its last 16 home games. ... Since the start of the 2012-13 season, Golden State is 16-5 in the regular season against Portland — 7-4 at Moda Center. Including the playoffs, the Warriors are 24-6 against the Blazers over that duration, 10-5 at Moda. ... The Blazers shot .494 from the field, including 16 for 39 (.410) from 3-point range. The Warriors shot well, too — .487 from the field and 12 for 28 (.429) from beyond the arc. ... Nurkic (10 points, 11 rebounds in 21 minutes) had his 17th double-double of the season. ... The Blazers have scored more points only once this season, in a 127-125 win over Brooklyn on Nov. 24.
Kerr, pregame, on the subject of injuries: "Fortunately, we have other guys who are pretty good. We have a deep team. It's been one of the hallmarks of our group the last few years. We've played without Steph 15 times (with an 11-4 record before Friday). We know the formula. We know what we have to do. We have to defend, take care of the ball and play a really solid game against a team that is on fire right now." ... Kerr, who played for the Blazers in 2001-02, on the Moda Center environment: "It's always one of the best crowds in the league. Noisy. They love their team, through thick and thin. Right now it's thick. Everything is going well for the Blazers. I like their team a lot. They play a beautiful style. Terry does a great job. They're playing with great confidence. Their defense is much improved over the last few years. It's a team that has taken a step up from where they've been the last couple of years. It's impressive. We have our hands full. We know. We've been blown out here a few times in this building. But we've also had our share of success. We have to come in locked in, and if we do so, even without some key guys, we feel confident we can come in and win."