There’s something fun about watching underdogs forget that they are underdogs and play with zero fear.
Case in point: The Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday afternoon, 121-109. This does not come as a surprise to anyone. What was somewhat surprising was that Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum went on the road and routinely shredded Golden State’s stingy defense.
By the time the two teams went into the locker room for halftime, the game was tied at 56. Of Portland’s 56 points, their combined for 48 of them – McCollum had 27 on 11-for-14 shooting, Lillard had 21 while going 6-for-11 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the free throw line in his hometown. Both of them did this in only 18 first-half minutes.
It set a tone early that the two All-Stars are not going to flinch at any point over the course of this series. That’s an important part of beating Golden State – there is almost certainly going to be one spurt in every quarter where they try to hit you with their best shot over and over. It is your job to make sure you don’t get rattled, because all the Warriors need are for one of those spurts to snowball into something bigger than a spurt and it’s over.
For the Blazers, that spurt came in the fourth quarter, when Golden State ripped off 11 straight points. It was enough to keep Portland at arm’s length for the rest of the game and gave the Warriors the 12-point win. Prior to that, it felt like the fearlessness of Lillard – who said the team had nothing to lose prior to the start of the series – and McCollum could be enough to drag Portland to a win.
In the end, McCollum (41) and Lillard (34) combined to score 75 points and shot 28-for-54 (51.8 percent) from the field. Everyone else on the Blazers combined to score 34 points and shot 12-for-39 (30.7 percent) from the field. It illustrated the single biggest issue Portland has – their backcourt is brilliant, the rest of the team is … well, let’s say hot and cold. (For example, Portland’s bench scored nine points, while Ian Clark scored 12 on his own off of Golden State’s bench.)