One of 16 is in the books.
It might not have been a thing of beauty, it might not have been their signature game and it may not even be the precise way the Warriors wanted to start the playoffs … but all that matters is they protected their home-court in Game 1 with a 121-109 win over the Blazers at Oracle.
The Warriors used a 15-2 start to the fourth quarter to finally give themselves some wiggle room against a Blazers’ team that got incredible performances from their backcourt twosome of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
The Warriors, who lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals a year ago, need 15 more wins to claim their second championship in three years. The Warriors didn’t play like champions all game, but they sure did in the fourth quarter, outscoring Portland 33-21.
Draymond Green was sensational, once again showing why he might be the best defensive player in the league. Green’s boxscore line was nuts, quite frankly, and his real play was no less impressive. Green finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocks and three steals.
The Warriors needed all of those numbers because McCollum (41 points) and Lillard (34 points) combined for 75 points, and they were pretty darn efficient in the process, combining to go 28-for-54 from the field and 7-for-15 from 3-point range. Kevin Durant, in his first playoff game as a Warrior, had 32 points and Stephen Curry had 29.
–As the game eased toward late third quarter, it finally looked like the Warriors were going to gain some separation. The key to gaining that separation: JaVale McGee, who keyed a 10-0 run that gave the Warriors what had been their biggest lead at 85-77 up to that point.
McGee blocked a couple of shots, got a couple of offensive rebounds and threw down a couple of dunks. McGee’s scintillating play had the Oracle crowd buzzing, but nobody told the Blazers they were in trouble.
In fact, the Blazers responded with a strong close to the period, and Pat Connaughton’s three-point play at the end of the period knotted the game 88-88.
–The Warriors pride themselves on their defense. It’s an area of the game where many of Golden State’s players don’t believe they get the credit they should at that end of the floor. But the first half was a nightmare — and they had no answers for McCollum and Lillard.
McCollum was the best player on the floor — without a doubt — over the game’s first 24 minutes. He went into halftime with 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Lillard was no slouch himself, scoring 21 points by halftime. As good as those two were, and they were terrific, the Blazers still only managed a 56-56 tie at intermission.
–The first quarter had to be considered a “win” for the Blazers. Yes, they were down 32-27 after the first quarter, but Lillard and McCollum combined for 24 points and Portland certainly didn’t seem intimidated by the moment.
The Warriors, on the other hand, were a little ragged, committing seven turnovers in the first 12 minutes — though Portland only turned those mistakes into five points.