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Lillard, 'Chief' lead way as Blazers make it a series

TRIBUNE PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Damian Lillard's 40-10 game (40 points, 10 assists) led Portland to a win in Game 3.Draymond Green was the ultimate triple-threat, and Klay Thompson knocked down shots as if he were in a penny arcade.

The Trail Blazers had more than enough, though, to thwart the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors from taking a stranglehold on their Western Conference semifinal series.

Damian Lillard muscled up with a career playoff-high 40 points and 10 assists, and Al-Farouq "Chief" Aminu came through with his second Rembrandt of this postseason as Portland seized a 120-108 victory Saturday night at Moda Center.

The Blazers trimmed Golden State’s series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 here Monday night.

“You don’t want to go down 0-3, especially to this team,” Lillard said, a reference to the Warriors' 2014-15 NBA championship and record 73-win regular season during this campaign.

Curry watched from the Golden State bench in street clothes, sitting out his fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. Saturday’s result made you wonder if the Warriors will be moved to expedite the Baby-Faced Injured Guy’s return to Monday night. They might just need him.

Green was a whirling dervish, scoring a career playoff-high 37 points, knocking down 8 of 12 3-point attempts, grabbing nine rebounds, handing out eight assists and all but willing the Warriors to victory. Thompson, who scored a career playoff-high 37 points in the series opener, followed with 35 points in Game 3, including 24 in the first half.

It wasn’t enough against a Portland team determined not just to extend the series, but to win it. Also, determined not to allow a big lead to slip away in the fourth quarter as it did in Game 2. Portland led 93-80 after three quarters Saturday night, extended the margin to 20 points and never let the Warriors get closer than 11.

“We played a lot smarter down the stretch,” Lillard said. “We challenged them. (In Game 2) We let up, and they turned it on like a championship team should and always will do. We were on our heels. Tonight, we didn’t allow that to happen. We kept doing what was working for us.”

Part of that was allowing Lillard to do his thing. He knocked down 14 of 27 shots, including 8 for 13 from 3-point range, establishing a franchise single-game record for makes from beyond the arc.

“He was scoring at will,” said Thompson, faced with the task of chasing Lillard around screens all night. “He had a great game, but a lot of that was on me. I go up against Steph a lot (in practice), and you have to treat Lillard like Steph as far as being 30 to 35 feet away from the basket. You have to make him put it on the floor or give it up. We let him get too many rhythm 3’s off the catch and off the ball-screens tonight. That’s where he is deadly.”

Lillard scored 25 points in the first half and another 10 when #LillardTime was on in the fourth quarter.

Said backcourt mate CJ McCollum, who chipped in 22 points: “He kept us afloat early on when a lot of us weren’t producing. He was aggressive. He attacked. He made plays for others. He looked like an All-Star tonight.”

“I didn’t think it was on me to go win the game or anything, but it was my job to be aggressive from the start,” Lillard said. “A lot of times, the team will go as far as I go.”

“You run out of superlatives with Damian,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s such a great competitor. There was no question in my mind he was going to come and have a really good game. That’s just how he is built.”

Then there was Aminu, the softspoken forward who has had the two greatest games of his six-year career during this postseason. He came through with a career playoff-high 30 points and 10 rebounds in a Game-4 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Saturday night, he put together a near-flawless performance, scoring 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting — 4 for 5 from 3-point range — to go with 10 rebounds in 41 strong minutes.

“The shooting speaks for itself — 23 points on nine shots,” Stotts said. “He shot it with confidence. His defense was solid. You have to score against Golden State. It’s such an explosive team. I liked his aggressiveness on drives to the basket, and going 4-for-5 from 3’s … we needed it.”

Aminu made his first eight shots from the field before finally missing a 3 late in the game.

“Just the usual,” teammate Ed Davis observed.

Say what?

“He just don’t get the shots, that’s it,” Davis said with a nod. “There are other guys doing the scoring, but I’m not surprised. I know he can do that. He had a good game, but nothing crazy or surprising to me.”

The 6-9 forward was left open often because the Warriors were paying so much defensive attention to Lillard and McCollum.

“It’s been like that all through the playoffs,” Aminu said. “(Opponents) are really focusing in on our guards. They’re going to try to take away what you do best, and you’re going to have to find different ways to be effective. Tonight was a testament to the guards being able to find me and me being able to hit the shots.”

The Blazers started slowly, making only 4 of their first 16 shots from the field. From that point, they shot .514. And they finished 17 for 30 from 3-point range, setting a franchise playoff record for made 3’s in a game.

“The first quarter, we couldn’t get much rhythm, but we found a way to hang around,” Stotts said. “We kept grinding it out.”

Golden State led 28-22 after one quarter, but the Blazers scored the first seven points of the second period to go in front 29-28. After Aminu sank a 3 for a 37-34 advantage midway through the second quarter, the Warriors never led again.

Portland outscored the Warriors 36-18 in the second quarter to take a 58-46 lead at the half, then knocked out another 35-point quarter to carry a 93-80 edge into the final period.

The Blazers increased the difference to 105-85, but Golden State used a 9-0 run to close to within 105-94 with 5:25 remaining. Portland scored the next five points, and the Warriors never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

“All it means is we won a home-court game,” Stotts said. “We didn’t want to go down 0-3 in the series.”

The Blazers didn’t. They’re down 1-2, with another home game Monday night. The Warriors know, at least, that they’re in a fight in this series — with or without Curry.

NOTES: Curry missed his fourth straight playoff game with a sprained right knee. The NBA’s leading scorer had his first “actual basketball” workout, a two-on-two game on the Moda Center court with members of the coaching staff, prior to Saturday night’s game. “He came out of it fine,” coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “It’s another good step, another good sign.” Might Curry play in Game 4? “We’ll see how it goes (Sunday),” Kerr said. “We’ll put him into a three-on-three (workout) and see how he does.” … Kerr, asked if Lillard played like an All-Star: “40 points … 10 assists … yeah, I’m going to say he played like an All-Star.” … Lillard is the first Blazer to record 40 points and 10 assists in a playoff game since Clyde Drexler in 1992. … Portland becomes the first team to beat Golden State twice this season.

Starting Portland forward Mo Harkless played only seven minutes due to a sore right hip injured when he fell to the floor after a dunk during Game 2. “Felt really sore out there today,” Harkless said. “The coaches saw that and took me out, which I think was the right decision. Selfishly, I’d love to play, but I’m happy we were able to win and I got to rest.” Will the injury keep him out of Game 4? “Not if it’s up to me,” Harkless said. … McCollum scored 16 of his points in the second half. … Aminu had a second-quarter dunk that McCollum termed “nasty — top-10-play-worthy.” … Three Blazers played more than 40 minutes — Lillard and McCollum 42 apiece and Aminu 41. “I don’t know if I’ve ever played three guys over 40 in a game this season,” Stotts said. “But we had three days off, there are long timeouts, and we had to do everything to win this game. They looked like they had good bounce. One of the reasons we keep their minutes under check in the regular season is so they can be in this position in the playoffs.”

Golden State got 72 points from Green and Thompson and 38 points from the rest of the team. Starters Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston combined for 18 and the bench chipped in only 20. … Bogut picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in the first 19 seconds of the third quarter. The veteran center played only 11 minutes, collecting six points and five rebounds. … The Warriors managed only two fast-break points, the Blazers eight. … Portland has won 22 of its last 25 home games, including four straight in the postseason. … Kerr, before the game on Stotts: “Terry is a great coach. When you see a team play hard and play together and the players are having fun, those are good signs that the team is well-coached. The most impressive thing this year is going from a team with a dominant low-post guy in (LaMarcus) Aldridge to perimeter-oriented. Terry learned a lot from Rick (Carlisle). I see a lot of similarities (with the Blazers and Mavericks) in terms of beautiful offensive movement and flow. I admire what (the Blazers) are doing. They’re one of my favorite teams to watch on an off night. I’m not enjoying trying to guard them in this series. They’re tough.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers