OAKLAND, Calif. — As Andre Iguodala sprinted off the courtroom docket screaming at his magic palms, the Portland Trail Blazers shuffled to the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena on Thursday night and rummaged for hope.
Hope after blowing a massive lead. Hope after dropping a recreation they’d wished to win. Hope amid the sad actuality that, in precept, they’d wish to win 4 of their subsequent 5 video video games in the direction of the Golden State Warriors — the Warriors! — to guard their dream of reaching the N.B.A. finals for the first time since 1992.
“I thought we gave ourselves a chance,” talked about Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ All-Star stage guard.
Lillard, who had the ball stripped from him by Iguodala as he tried to launch a 3-pointer in the waning moments of the Warriors’ 114-111 win, searched for consolation alongside alongside together with his teammates. A number of idling buses have been prepared open air to whisk the Blazers away from this place, this residence of horrors, so they may head dwelling to Portland for the subsequent two video video games of the Western Conference finals. But hope in the direction of the Warriors is a flimsy concept, significantly for an opponent that is observing a 2-0 sequence deficit. Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.
“We feel like we’ve proven we can play with those guys and we can win,” Blazers forward Rodney Hood talked about. “It’s about sustaining it, which is the toughest part.”
The Blazers have confirmed their toughness in the playoffs. In the conference semifinals, they pressured a seventh recreation in the direction of the Denver Nuggets — then obtained on the freeway to advance. But the Warriors, even absent Kevin Durant, mustn’t the Nuggets, and their will to win seems as sturdy as ever.
“We stole that game,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr talked about. “I thought they outplayed us for much of the night, the majority of the night, but we brought enough competitive fire in the second half to overcome their great play. We’ve been here before. I think our experience helped us.”
Consider: Golden State, after trailing by as many as 17 components, was nonetheless down by 8 late in the fourth quarter when Portland’s Meyers Leonard sank a 3-pointer with 4 minutes 28 seconds remaining. But then bought right here the acquainted onslaught from the Warriors, stuffed with claustrophobic safety and offensive rebounds and backdoor passes and clutch jumpers. Iguodala sealed the win alongside together with his blocked shot.
“For me, as the offensive player, I felt like it was contact,” talked about Lillard, who had 23 components and 10 assists. “There was a lot of contact. But obviously the ref is not going to decide the game or jump in at that point. You know, so they — good defensive play.”
There was one large question sooner than the recreation: How would the Blazers defend the Warriors’ Stephen Curry? In Tuesday’s sequence opener, Portland Coach Terry Stotts unveiled his strategy of getting Curry’s defender battle through screens, fairly than entice him with a second defender and strain the ball out of his palms. Curry erupted for 36 components in a 22-point win.
On Thursday, the Blazers actively tried to put the clamps on Curry by trapping, switching and hedging on screens — and every time they’ve been a step gradual or gave Curry an extreme quantity of daylight, Stotts let his avid gamers discover out about it. In the first quarter, he generally known as a timeout in order that he would possibly reprimand Leonard for allowing Curry an open 3-pointer (which he buried).
Curry wound up struggling from 3-point range, taking photos 4 of 14. But by pressuring Curry alongside the perimeter, the Blazers sacrificed some help safety in the paint. Curry took profit by attending to the basket. He accomplished with 37 components, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. So what are the Blazers imagined to do now? Neither approach has been notably environment friendly.
“Steph is going to be Steph,” Warriors forward Kevon Looney talked about. “He’s going to take big shots and make shots.”
As for Lillard, nothing bought right here merely. He shot 6 of 16 from the topic in the direction of a common meals plan of taller, rangier defenders. Klay Thompson, Alfonzo McKinnie and Iguodala have been amongst the avid gamers who took prompts him. In the first half, Lillard made three topic goals, and they also have been all 3-pointers from outer home: 32, 33 and 27 ft. It someway acquired worse for him in the second half when Looney pounced on his once more as they grappled for a unfastened ball. Lillard bought right here up clutching his facet.
“It didn’t affect my game,” Lillard talked about. “When you’re out there, you’re out there. There ain’t really no excuse.”
The Warriors are doing their damage with out Durant, who injured his correct calf in the direction of the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals — and his return should not be imminent. The workers launched sooner than Thursday’s recreation that he would not make the journey to Portland for Games 3 and 4, and that he might be evaluated as soon as extra in a week.
“We’re confident we can win, but we would much rather have him playing,” Curry talked about. “So we’re going to hold the fort down until he gets back and go win another championship with our full squad.”
The Warriors, in any case, are chasing their fourth championship in 5 years, they usually’re attempting to do away with the Blazers from the postseason for the third time in 4 years.
As they packed up their belongings and began to make their resolution to their buses, the Blazers emphasised a few of the positives: their improved play, the fairly a few potentialities they wanted to win, the new various in entrance of them with a couple of video video games at dwelling.
“Flush this one,” Hood talked about, “and get ready for Saturday.”
If solely it have been that simple.