The Golden State Warriors will attempt to continue their surge towards a third straight championship as they host the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Live NBA: Portland @ Golden State
Despite two-time reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant’s absence with a calf strain, the Warriors had too much firepower for the Trail Blazers in the series opener at Oracle Arena.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson triumphed in the battle of the backcourts as they combined for 62 points, comprehensively outplaying Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who contributed a total of just 36 points.
Despite the eventual comfortable (22-point) margin of victory for the Warriors, the Blazers were within six entering the fourth quarter and can take encouragement from that.
There were question marks over their defensive approach to Game 1, with the decision to deploy a ‘drop-defense’ against Curry backfiring spectacularly, as he shot 9-15 from three-point range.
However, with the Warriors having confirmed Durant will once more be absent for Game 2, if the Blazers can slow down Curry they can retain realistic hopes of heading back to Portland for Game 3 level.
Rodney Hood’s solid 17-point showing in Game 1 after he recovered from a knee injury was encouraging for the Blazers, while they’ll expect an improved display from Oakland native Lillard, who shot just 4-12 from the floor in his hometown.
Key Battle: CJ McCollum vs Klay Thompson
While Curry’s 36-point showing grabbed the headlines, Thompson’s display was equally as important.
The shooting guard’s 26 points were very much needed with top-scorer Durant out, while he also did a fine job of helping to slow down his opposite number, McCollum.
Having shone brightly as the Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the previous round, McCollum found himself stifled on the offensive end, and unable to keep track of Thompson at the other.
For the Blazers to have a chance of stealing a road victory, McCollum will need to at least equal, if not better, Thompson’s impact on the game.
With his season average of 18.0 points per game (in four appearances) against the Warriors way down on the 24.9 he has managed during the postseason, McCollum must find a formula to score more freely against the Warriors’ imposing defense.
Last time out
15 – That was the advantage the Warriors held over the Blazers in fast-break points during Game 1. The old adage that defense is the best form of offense was certainly true on this occasion as the Warriors took advantage of stops to score easily at the other end.
In a series during which the Blazers need to perform at the peak of their capabilities to have any chance of advancing, giving up such a deficit in an area they can control with better transition defense was a mistake that they cannot afford to make again.
One to watch (Trail Blazers): Zach Collins
Portland’s decision to employ a ‘drop-defense’ in Game 1 was undoubtedly influenced by the immobility of starting center Enes Kanter. Given Curry’s success, an adjustment is expected, but to execute that more minutes may be needed to be given to backup big man Zach Collins.
Collins’ greater speed should give him the ability to close out on Curry in pick-and-roll situations, potentially forcing other less-heralded members of the Warriors to score the ball.
One to watch: (Warriors): Kevon Looney
A downside to the Blazers’ likely adjustment will be that with their center drawn away from the basket, the Warriors may find themselves with more opportunities for offensive rebounds.
The player most likely to take advantage of that will be Kevon Looney, who has received increased playing time in Durant’s absence. He wreaked havoc on the boards during the Warriors’ Game 5 and 6 victories over the Rockets, and may well now get the chance to stamp his authority on this series.
Watch Portland Trail Blazers Game 2 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Friday morning (2am).