Trail Blazers Fail To Slow Warriors In Game 1 Loss At Oracle Arena

by Casey Holdahl
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OAKLAND -- If defense wins championships, then the Trail Blazers are going to need to make some strides on that side of the ball before their next game versus the Warriors.

Golden State shot 50 percent from the field and 52 percent from three to defeat Portland 116-94 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.

"Whatever was happening, we were still hanging around," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "So we were encouraged by that, and then obviously they broke loose in the fourth quarter, but down six going into the fourth, there was some things to be encouraged about. So you know, we'll bounce back and see what we can do better."

The Warriors lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 scheduled for Thursday night in Oakland.

In a game in which the Trail Blazers went 36 percent from the field, made just seven of 28 three-point attempts and turned the ball over 21 times for 31 Warriors points, one might not think that their defense was necessarily the issue. But even with the Trail Blazers' struggles on the offensive end -- the trailed at one point by as many as 17 in the third quarter -- they were still well within striking distance, thanks in large part to a considerable advantage in free throws, going into the fourth quarter.

But Portland's poor showing shooting from the field certainly didn't help their cause, it was their inability to defend the three-point line, which in and of itself is enough to sink a team versus a team like the Warriors, nor string together stops was ultimately what did the Blazers in.

"That was very poor execution defensively on our part," said Damian Lillard. "Just having our bigs back that far, understanding the team we are playing against, they are not going to shoot mid-range jumpers and try to attack the rim. If they see the opportunity to shoot a three, they are going to take you. They shoot it at a high clip. We've got to bring our guys up and run them off the line, and tonight, we were, you know, they were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots. You know, that's the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team."

After outscoring the Warriors 26-23 in the third, the Blazers trailed by seven going into the fourth quarter. But for as bad as the Blazers were defending in the first three quarters, they were even worse in the fourth, allowing the Warriors to shoot 65 percent from the field and 5-of-9 from three.

"They got loose in the fourth quarter and had 39 in the fourth quarter," said Stotts. "But going into the fourth quarter down six, we were finding ways to hang in on a night that we were struggling offensively."

The result was the home team outscoring the road side by 16 points in the final quarter to pull away for the 22-point victory.

"I think we could have done a better job in the fourth quarter," said CJ McCollum. "Our pick-and-roll coverages were bad all night, they were walking into threes. Transition-wise, I think the 21 turnovers definitely hurt us. That led to a lot of easy baskets, run outs. Other than that I think on-ball we just got to communicate a little bit better, tighten some things up and make it a little more difficult."

The Blazers had five players finish in double figures led by 19 points from Lillard, though he made just 4-of-12 shots from the field and turned the ball over seven times.

"I think they gave a lot of attention to the ball when I was coming off screens," said Lillard. "Even when I was in isolation situations, I was seeing two and three people. I think that was obvious, you know, that they were trying to make things hard for me just by making me see two bodies and sending two guys at me sometimes. Sometimes I couldn't get an attempt up, even if I was trying to force it."

Rodney Hood, McCollum and Maurice Harkless all finished with 17 points. Enes Kanter added a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds while also handing out three assists in just under 29 minutes.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry led all scorers with 36 points on 12-of-23 shooting. His nine three-pointers tied a career postseason best for the former MVP. He also added seven assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes.

"We're going to have to make some adjustments and figure it out," said Harkless. "I don't think there's any way Steph should come off a pick-and-roll and have a clean look. We don't get that, Dame don't get that, CJ don't get that. There's no way the best shooter in the game should get that."

Klay Thompson went 10-of-24 from the field for 26 points in 37 minutes. Draymond Green was the only other Warrior to finish in double figures, scoring 12 points to go with 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals in 34 minutes.

The Trail Blazers will have a day to regroup, more than they had to prepare for Game 1 after having to win a Game 7 in Denver on Sunday afternoon to advance, before returning to Oracle for Game 2 Thursday night.

"We did this to ourselves," said McCollum. "We went to a seven-game series and that’s what happens. You got to travel, your back is against the wall a little bit and they were able to take care of business in six games, so they were able to get a little bit more rest. No excuses, we got to be ready to play on Thursday."

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN.

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