by Jerry Feitelberg
The Golden State Warriors downed the Portland Trailblazer 119-117 to sweep the Western Conference Finals. They now advance to the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year. They join the Boston Celtics as they and the Celtics are the only teams to reach the Finals for five seasons in a row.
The Warriors won their fifth game in a row with superstar Kevin Durant on the sidelines. DeMarcus Cousins, who injured a quadriceps muscle in the series against the LA Clippers was not available either. Andre Iguodala hurt his calf in Game Three in Portland and was questionable for Monday’s game. Warriors coach Steve Kerr opted to not play Andre. Kerr made changes in the starting lineup, and they paid off as the W’s won. It was not easy as they had to do it in overtime, but they did it.
The Blazers who had a 17-point lead in game two, and an eighteen-point point in game three, were able to gain a 17-point advantage in game four. The Blazers’ Damian Lillard, who suffered a rib injury and wasn’t at his best in games 2 and 3, was determined to play better and lead his team to a win. Blazers’ head coach, Terry Stotts, shuffled his lineup and inserted seven-foot-one -inch Meyers Leonard in the lineup. Leonard, who was averaging about six points a game, had the game of his life. He scored twenty-five points in the first half and knocked down five threes.
The Warriors, without Andre Iguodala, started forwards Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie. It was the first time that either player ever started an NBA Playoff game. The Warriors were hoping the “next man up” philosophy would work and it did.
The first period was very fast and furious. Both teams raced up and down the court. There were nine lead changes in the first quarter alone. The Warriors finished the period with a slim 36-35 lead. Steph Curry had 12, and Klay Thompson added 10 to pace the Warrior attack. Portland’s Meyers Leonard put 14 on the board, and CJ McCollum had 8, and Lillard added 7.
The Blazers, behind Leonard, McCollum, and Lillard outscored the W’s 34-29 to finish the first half leading 69-65. They led by eleven 66-55 late in the second period. Steph Curry made two three and a deuce to end the half trailing 69-65.
The Blazers knew it was now or never. They knew that they had to put away the Warriors. They knew that the Warriors had come back from significant deficits in game 2 and 3. They knew that if they hoped to win, they had to shut down the W’s offense and, at the same time, find a way to break down the Warriors defense. They held Draymond Green to just two points in the first half. Without Iguodala, could Draymond do it again? He answered the question. Yes, he did it again. The Blazers led 98-78 late in the third quarter. The Warriors scored the last eight points of the quarter to trail by eight 95-87. The Warriors knew that they had work to do in the final period, but an eight-point deficit is not impossible to overcome.
Curry hit a three to start the fourth quarter. Portland hit two-threes to go up by eleven 101-90. The Warriors defense started to throttle the Blazers’ offense. The Warriors went on a 14-3 run to tie the game at 104. Portland’s Rod Hood made a bucket, but Kevon Looney countered with one of his own to tie it at 106. Draymond gave the W’s the lead 108-106. Lillard made a three and Leonard added a bucket to put Portland ahead 111-108. Klay Thompson knocked down a three to tie it, and the game went to overtime.
The Warriors fell behind 115-114. Alfonzo McKinnie made a bucket to give the W’s the lead 116-115. Draymond Green made his only three-pointer of the game to provide the W’s their most significant lead of the night 119-115. Lillard connected on a two-point shot to close the gap to two 119-117. Neither team could relax. With 3.3 seconds left, Portland had the ball. If they made a two-point bucket, they would have tied the game and forced another 5-minute overtime period. If they made a three, they would have won. The Warriors held on, and Portland could not get off a shot. The Warriors win and end the Blazers’ season.
Game Notes and Stats- The Warriors bench players all performed well in Monday night’s win. Jordan Bell had seven, Alfonzo McKinnie was in double figures with 12. Kevon Looney continued his excellent play. He had a double-double with 12 points 14 rebounds. He, again, did a superb job getting offensive rebounds. Klay Thompson had 17, and he was tasked with trying to shut down Portlands CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. The Warriors had another first as they had two players that had a triple-double. Draymond Green, held to two points in the first half, finished the night with 18 points, 14 boards, and 11 assists. Step Curry had his fifth game in a row with 30 or more points. He tallied 37 and had 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Shay Livingston added 8, coming off the bench.
Meyers Leonard led Portland with 30 points and 12 rebounds. McCollum finished with 26. Damian Lillard had a double-double for Portland with 28 points, 4 rebounds, and 12 assists. Zach Collins was the other Blazer in double figures with 10.
The Warriors outrebounded the Blazers 55-28 The W’s had 15 offensive rebounds. Portland had six. The Warriors had 10 steals and 5 blocks.
The Warriors will now have a few days off as they await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks lead the Series 2-1. Game four will be played in Toronto Tuesday night.