Blazers show Warriors they are a tough foe going into Game 2
OAKLAND, California — The Trail Blazers know they have their work cut out for them if they are to steal Wednesday night's Game 2 of their playoff series with Golden State and head back to Portland with momentum.
That's not to say they don't think it can be done.
"We know we can play with them," small forward Moe Harkless said after the Warriors' 121-109 victory in Sunday's opener. "We know we can beat these guys. We feel like they know it, too."
Golden State looked vulnerable through three quarters on Sunday. The score was tied 56-56 at halftime and 88-88 after 36 minutes. Then the Warriors turned it on and tuned out the visitors from the north.
"This is a very good team we're facing," said Portland's reserve center, Meyers Leonard, who played only seven minutes in Game 1. "They have a lot of weapons on the offensive end. They defend.
"We were very good for a vast majority of the game. We were able to sustain their runs and come right back at them. But in the fourth quarter, we couldn't get it done."
CJ McCollum had the game of his life, going for a playoff career-high 41 points and matching his playoff career high with eight rebounds.
Backcourt mate Damian Lillard came through with 34 points of his own.
Their teammates, however, managed 34 points, going 12 for 39 from the field.
"It's going to take a team to beat them," Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the Warriors. "Damian and CJ both had great offensive nights, but we need everybody. Guys have to be ready to make shots.
"(The Warriors) are a good help defense team, so when the ball is swung out, we have to be able to take advantage of those opportunities. If (Lillard and McCollum) get 80 points between them, we still need to score another 40 or 50."
The other guys know it.
"We have to step up," said Evan Turner, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds as the starting small forward but made just 3 of 7 shots from the field. "CJ had it going. 'Dame' is always going to be aggressive. The rest of us need to make more of the shots that we take."
Reserve guard Allen Crabbe was a nonfactor, contributing three points on 1-for-5 shooting in his 22 minutes.
"I wanted to provide more for the team," he said. "Guys like myself have to find ways to get going early.
"When teams are putting a lot of focus on, or double-teaming (Lillard and McCollum), leaving some of us open for shots, we have to deliver. Doing that takes some of the pressure off of them."
With their teammates not contributing much to the offense, Lillard and McCollum took it upon themselves to drive to the basket even more than normal. That allowed Golden State to register 10 blocked shots, including five by power forward Draymond Green.
"Draymond is a very good help-side defender," Leonard said. "He's got a free safety mentality. He's good at reading the situation and making plays when he needs to. We have to understand when going to the rim, he's going to be there.
"Sometimes you have to trust the next guy. CJ and Dame both had unbelievable games, but occasionally a drive-and-kick will force Draymond to not be at the rim as much. That will limit his effectiveness. We have to understand how to exploit him when he roams."
Lillard agreed: "To beat the Warriors, we're going to have to make that extra pass and hit guys on the weak side, and be able to depend on them more often."
Playoff series are all about adjustments from game to game. Dealing with Green is one for Portland. The Blazers also will try to figure out how to better control Kevin Durant, who went for 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting and had 10 rebounds his first playoff game as a Warrior.
"He's an efficient scorer," said the 6-7 Turner, who defended Durant much of the way. "(Coach) Steve Kerr does a great job drawing up plays for him. He's 7 feet. A couple of times, I was in his face and he got to a spot and hit a shot over me.
"He's a great scorer who plays like a bad ass. We need to cut down what he does in transition. We just have to make him less efficient."
Easier said than done.
"Durant makes up the difference for them," Lillard said. "You try to hold Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) down, make them make tough shots and make the game harder for them. Then you add Durant, and that's a hell of an option to have. "Guys defended him well (Sunday). He made contested pull-up jumpers. That's why he is who he is."
The Warriors are thinking along the same lines in defending McCollum and Lillard.
"If you want to double-team them, you're opening yourself up to made 3's from other guys," Kerr said. "They (the two guards) had a phenomenal game. Hopefully, they don't get 75 points between them in Game 2, but they might. That's how good they are. We just have to keep trying to make it hard on them and do the best we can."
Said Curry, who had 29 points: "When they get it going, some of (the baskets) you just have to live with. We played great defense and they were still able to finish. Over the course of 48 (minutes), you just try to wear them down."
It would be a big lift if Portland center Jusuf Nurkic were cleared for duty. The "Bosnian Beast" was ruled out of Sunday's game as he continues to recover from a nondisplaced fracture of his right leg, an injury that kept him out of the final seven games of the regular season.
Asked if that was a mental letdown, Harkless smiled.
"We knew," he said.
For how long?
"Longer than you guys," he said, meaning the media. "I knew in my head a few days ago. We all knew for sure today.
"When he comes back, he'll help us a lot. I think we need him."
Nurkic said little as he donned headphones and sauntered out of the Blazers locker room on Sunday. When will he be back?
"I don't know," he said. "It's day-to-day."
If Nurkic is able to play, Golden State will have to go more minutes with centers Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee and fewer minutes with a smaller group featuring such reserves as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark.
But the Blazers feel they can win without Nurkic.
"We played quite a few games without 'Nurk' and did well," Crabbe said. "He's a key piece to our team, but we did what we did the last few games without him."
The Blazers were disappointed but not discouraged over Sunday's loss.
"That could have been us winning the ballgame," Crabbe said. "Our focus and intensity were where it needed to be.
"One seed vs. eight seed — people thought (the Warriors) would have a cake walk. We don't believe that. We believe we'll come back stronger in the second game, too."