PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It’s clear to Allen Crabbe – and just about everyone else who’s watching – that Portland’s bench needs to do more against the Warriors.
And Crabbe is pointing to himself as someone who needs to step up.
The Trail Blazers’ reserves had a combined 35 points Wednesday night when starters Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum struggled with only 23 points between the two of them, and Golden State won 110-81. The bench sparked a rally for a time in the second quarter but couldn’t match the depth of the Warriors at the end, finishing 13 of 32 from the field and 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
That’s not going to be enough to beat Golden State, which got 50 from its bench. Still, it was an improvement over Game 1, when Portland’s backups had a combined nine points in a 121-109 Warriors win.
Crabbe has been especially frustrated, with just three points in the opening game of the series and six in the second.
“Definitely not playing the way that I wanted to, not really contributing the way I wanted to offensively,” the 6-foot-6 wing said. “So it is kind of frustrating. But that’s the sweet thing about it. It’s a seven-game and we’ve still got more games to play, so I’ve still got time to pick it up.”
Now the series moves to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday, giving the Blazers a chance to play catch-up at home. Reserve play will be vitally important for the Blazers, especially if Lillard and McCollum are again held back by the Warriors.
Crabbe similarly got off to a slow start in last year’s first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers but improved and scored 20 points in Game 5 against Golden State in the second round. Overall, he averaged 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 11 playoff games last year.
“As a shooter on this team, as somebody who can score off the bench, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to just keep shooting the ball and wait until it starts falling for me,” he said Friday at the Blazers’ practice facility. “It will pick up from there.”
Crabbe averaged 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists overall this season after signing a four-year contract worth $75 million with the Blazers last summer. He had a season-high 30 points in an overtime victory over Detroit in January. He also broke out in a 105-98 victory over the Timberwolves in early March with 25 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers – just one off the franchise record by a reserve.
In his last 10 games of the regular season, he averaged nearly 12 points but he missed Portland’s three final regular-season games with left foot soreness after an MRI revealed inflammation.
The Blazers’ bench was an issue during the regular season – they were ranked 26th in the league – but as Portland rebounded after the All-Star break, so did the reserves.
With Lillard and McCollum resting after Portland clinched a playoff berth, point guard Shabazz Napier scored 32 points in a 99-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, who played their starters.
Napier was the top player off the bench in Game 2 of the playoffs, with 10 points.
Coach Terry Stotts said it’s a whole-team effort if the Blazers want to make some noise. Last season, Portland came back after a 0-2 deficit to beat the Clippers in the opening round.
“I think it’s important that all the players on the court – that everybody’s ready to make contributions,” Stotts said. “We made it a competitive series last year because it was a team effort. And we need the same team effort.”
Crabbe, like many of the other players at the practice facility on the eve of Game 3, characterized it as a must-win.
“We know how important this game is,” he said. “We’re locked in and we’re gonna go out there, gotta give it our all.”
More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball