Tip your cap to the Portland Trail Blazers.
It turned out the “what” was C.J. McCollum, great role players such as Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee, and Ed Davis, all orchestrated masterfully by Terry Stotts. This is a team that played with heart, passion, and a belief in itself that carried it to 44 wins and the second round of the NBA playoffs.
It was just not enough against Golden State.
As they have all season Portland put up a fight until the end, but 33 points from Klay Thompson and 29 from Stephen Curry — including 14 in the fourth quarter — was too much and Golden State won 125-121.
The Warriors win the series 4-1 and will wait for the winner of the Oklahoma City/San Antonio series. That series will start either Monday (if the Thunder close it out in Game 6) or next Wednesday.
The Warriors could use that time off to get healthy. In addition to Curry coming off a knee injury, Draymond Green tweaked his ankle in Game 5 (it had to be retaped, but he did return), while Andrew Bogut suffered a right adductor strain and left Game 5 not to return. Now those players will have at least five days to get right.
The Warriors earned that right with the win, but it was not easy.
Whether it was some tired legs, remaining rust, or the Blazers’ switching an aggressive big onto him off the pick-and-roll, Curry was just 3-of-9 shooting for seven points in the first half. It was Thompson carrying the Warriors early, he had 17 first half points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Damian Lillard had 21 first half points, and the Blazers led the entire second quarter, and the Blazers were up five at the half.
Then in the third quarter Thompson brought the Warriors closer, scoring 16 points in the quarter and the Warriors made it a game.
By this time Curry had shaken off his rust and was putting the Blazers bigs that switch on him on skates, which was rough for Ed Davis.
The Blazers would not go quietly, they made a 7-0 run at one point in the fourth, then not long later had a 7-2 run. But none of it was enough once the Warriors got Curry going (14 in the fourth) and the ball started flying around as it does.
For both teams, this was a series to build off of.
For the Blazers, it showed them as a team on the rise with the right chemistry and stars that can thrive under pressure. Get a rim protecting big this summer and some wing defensive help, plus just another year of maturity for their young players, and watch out.
For the Warriors, it’s they were challenged and responded like champions. It felt like a playoff series. It was a nice warmup for the next round, which will be a more difficult test (regardless of which team they face).