Stephen Curry came out blazing hot and buried the Trail Blazers under a barrage of 3-point bombs in Game 1.
Without Kevin Durant, the Warriors look like a different team. Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was the old team. You know, the one that won 73 games and was led by the NBA’s first unanimous MVP. Stephen Curry was lights-out from the perimeter, playing loose and confident.
Most of this game felt much closer than the final score would imply. Portland only trailed by six heading into the fourth quarter and did an excellent job of not letting the Warriors extend their lead into unreachable territory. But down the fourth quarter, the Blazers lost contact and a close game turned into a blowout.
To be fair, though, even when the score was close, the Warriors looked like a team in control. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were hitting shots. Draymond Green was flying all over the court on defense, turning Portland over and swallowing up their guards. Bench players like Jonas Jerebko and Kevan Looney made important contributions and Golden State never really seemed to be trying that hard.
Portland proved they can hang, for at least a while. But if they really want to make this a series, they have a lot of things to work out before Game 2.
The Trail Blazers defense was waaaaay to loose with Stephen Curry. I don’t mean to imply that defending Curry is ever easy, but with Kevin Durant out of the game, it should be easier. But for whatever reason, the Blazers seemed wholly unprepared for the basics of trying to keep him under wraps. Enes Kanter inexplicably gave him oodles of space in the pick-and-roll, over and over again. Kanter wasn’t the only issue, Zach Collins also appeared to be playing drop coverage on Curry at times and even in small-small pick-and-rolls, Portland’s guards and wings weren’t nearly aggressive enough in hedging to make sure Curry didn’t just dribble behind a screen and into open space. He finished the game with 36 points on 12-of-23 from the field and 9-of-15 on 3-pointers. There’s just no way the Blazers can survive without tightening their coverage on Curry.
Lillard and McCollum were a hot mess. Portland’s backcourt is the strength of their team and it took some heroic performances from each for the Blazers to make it this far. They were something less than heroic tonight. McCollum and Lillard combined for 36 points on 11-of-31 from the field and 3-of-10 on 3-pointers. They managed just 7 assists to their 10 turnovers. As casually as they approached defending Curry, that’s how tight and focused Golden State’s defense was on them. The margin for error is small and they just weren’t prepared for the traps and hedges, coming for the Warriors, long, quick and disciplined defenders. These are not the Nuggets.
Portland might need to go small. Obviously, Zach Collins and Enes Kanter struggled to defend pick-and-roll but that is to be expected to some degree. However, there’s an upside to staying big against Golden State if it creates an advantage on the glass or helps keep Golden State from scoring around the basket. The Blazers did grab 16 offensive rebounds but they also gave up 11 to the Warriors, minimizing whatever edge they were securing for themselves. They also allowed the Warriors to shoot 13-of-18 in the restricted area. If they’re getting toasted in the pick-and-roll, aren’t intimidating anyone in the paint and giving up as many offensive rebounds as they’re getting, it might be time to pin Kanter to the bench, match Collins’ minutes with Looney’s, let Al-Farouq Aminu match up with Draymond Green and try to get another shooter on the floor.