Damian Lillard shoots 40 as Portland Trail Blazers cut Golden State Warriors’ advantage in play-off semi-finals
Lillard scores a play-off-best tally as the Trail Blazers beat Golden State 120-108 to cut the Warriors’ advantage in the Western Conference semi-final to 2-1
The Trail Blazers learned their lesson.
After Portland let the previous game slip away, Damian Lillard had a play-off-best 40 points and the Trail Blazers beat Golden State 120-108 on Saturday night to cut the Warriors’ advantage in the Western Conference semi-final to 2-1.
“I think we played a lot smarter down the stretch than we did the last game, and we challenged them,” Lillard said. “Last game, I think, we played good and then we let up a little bit, and they turned it on – like championship teams do. ... Tonight we didn’t allow that to happen, we kept doing what was working for us.”
The defending NBA champions were still without Steph Curry, the reigning MVP who sprained his right knee in game four of the first-round series against Houston.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and CJ McCollum added 22 points for Portland. The Trail Blazers led 58-46 at the half and stretched the lead to as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Draymond Green had 37 points and Klay Thompson added 35 for the Warriors.
Game four is on Tuesday morning (Hong Kong time) in Portland.
“Now they’re feeling like they can do it,” Green said about the Blazers. “We know otherwise. You can expect game 4 to be a battle.”
Harrison Barnes’ 3-pointer and Leandro Barbosa’s long jumper closed the gap to 105-92 for the Warriors with six minutes left. Lillard’s 3-pointer with 2:47 made it 114-97, but Green answered with his own 3.
McCollum’s 3-pointer pushed Portland’s lead to 120-106 with 1:22 left and the Warriors couldn’t catch up.
Avoiding a fourth quarter letdown was key for Portland. The Blazers led 87-76 going into the fourth quarter of game two, but were outscored 34-12 in the final period for a 110-99 Golden State win. Portland managed just six points in the final 5:21.
Lillard battled a chest cold in the first game of the series then was held scoreless in the final quarter of the second.
But Lillard tends to respond to adversity: After he was snubbed for an All-Star bid this season he scored 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over the Warriors on February 19. It was one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.
’You kind of run out of superlatives,“ coach Terry Stotts said about Lillard. ”He’s such a great competitor. There was no question he was going to come in and have a really good game tonight.”
The Blazers came back from a 2-0 deficit in the opening round against the Los Angeles Clippers, who were hurt when both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went down with injuries.
Thompson, who averaged 32 points in the first two games, had three 3-pointers as Golden State built an early 16-9 lead despite four turnovers. Another 3 pushed the lead to 22-16 and Thompson led all scorers after the first quarter with 18 points. He also had 18 points in the first quarter of game one against the Blazers.
Aminu and Lillard each made 3-pointers in the final minute and Portland went up 58-46 at the break. Lillard finished off the half with 25 and Thompson had 24 for Golden State.
The Blazers stretched the lead to 63-48 early in the second half, and Golden State’s Andrew Bogut got into foul trouble with five. Green hit consecutive 3-pointers to close the gap to 63-56. It was the closest the Warriors got in the second half.
Lillard finished with eight 3-pointers, also a play-off high for him.
“I didn’t think it was on me or anything,” Lillard said. “But I did think it was my job to come out and be aggressive from the start. A lot of times the team will go as I go. That goes for more than just scoring the ball. That means how focused I am, how accountable I’m holding myself. Tonight I just wanted to come out and be aggressive.
“You don’t want to be down 0-3. Period.”