The Trail Blazers gave the Warriors everything they could handle in Game 2 but, unfortunately, couldn’t make the plays they needed to steal the win.
This happens to the Warriors. Beating them always requires a certain degree of improbability and so when they look vulnerable for a quarter or two, they let you latch onto the possibility that this is the game that will let you draw even, the game when the fates will favor you, the game when their cracks will be expanded.
And then, they slam the door shut.
Portland came out and scored 65 points in the first half, carrying a 15-point lead in the halftime. That lead was entirely erased in a characteristically explosive third quarter by the Warriors, who won the fourth quarter as well and will head back to Portland with a 2-0 lead. The Trail Blazers have proven they can make the Warriors sweat. But that’s not nearly enough.
A more mobile Golden State means more of Draymond Green. With Kevin Durant out of the lineup, the Warriors have turned back to the structure that helped them break out in the first place, a structure that has accentuated the playmaking of Green. A 16-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist, 5-block performance is the perfect Draymond game, impeccable decision-making in a universe that consistently puts him in 4-of-3 offensive situations. Opponents are hoping that those situations provide less value than an open 3-pointer for Stephen Curry. And time and time again, Green makes sure that it’s six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other.
Portland needs even more from McCollum and Lillard. It’s a tall order but the Trail Blazers need Lillard and McCollum, collectively, to outplay Thompson and Curry for them to really have a chance. This was one of the best games Portland’s supporting cast has played in these playoffs — efficient scoring from Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless, excellent shooting from Rodney Hood and Seth Curry. But Lillard and McCollum combined for 45 points on 39 shots. That duo can’t just be good, they have to be exceptional.
The Trail Blazers are going small. The pick-and-roll defense of Enes Kanter, Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard was a major problem in Game 1 and Portland seemed to respond by going small and favoring shooting and playmaking in Game 2. That trio of bigs combined to play 43 minutes, compared to 72 minutes for second-unit guards and wings Rodney Hood, Seth Curry and Evan Turner. The switch gave the Blazers a shooting boost and made their defense more switchable but it also was a factor in them being outscored in the paint by 22 points.