There’s a quiet — okay, sometimes not so quiet — air of defiance coming from the basketball community residing in Oakland. Under new ownership, the Golden State Warriors have started planning an empire expansion and a new capital city about 12 miles west. Meanwhile, the town the Warriors still reside in just blessed the NBA with yet another franchise point guard. Oakland keeps giving and giving, and they never quite get the love they feel they deserve.
Friday night’s game between Golden State and Portland was almost a perfect evening for the embattled hoops city.
- The Warriors won 103-97, stopping both a 2-game skid and the Blazers’ 4-game winning streak.
- After a slow start, former Oakland High star Damian Lillard punctuated his first NBA game at Oracle Arena with a 17-point fourth quarter. Lillard scored 37 points and looked like a lock to win Rookie of the Year get named to several All-Star teams in future years.
- The Blazers didn’t even come close to making 75% of their free throws, which means a bunch of Warriors fans won some sort of food item I probably shouldn’t publicize. You know, because I promised myself I wouldn’t mention the nuggets again. Oh, damnit.
The Blazers probably should have lost this game by 20, since they were down by 15 or so for most of this game. Portland was spent after beating Miami 92-90 the night before, and the Warriors were playing their second game in six nights and have been in California for the last two weeks. But 3-point shots have a tendency to add up a little more quickly than their 2-point counterparts for whatever reason, and the Blazers rode Lillard’s energy and figured, “Why not? Let’s hang around in this game and see if the Warriors do anything stupid.”
Golden State avoided too many ridiculous blunders, and they could afford to let the Blazers bomb away from distance in the second half because of the defense they played in the first. The Warriors’ defense was good enough to win when it needed to be, and Golden State was clearly the deeper team.
Lillard was simply amazing in the second half. He hit layups, runners, threes from everywhere (including over five feet behind the arc). He scored 29 points in the game’s last 17 minutes. He put on a show during a game that should’ve had about 10 minutes of garbage time minimum, and isn’t entertainment what Oakland basketball is all about — whether you’re talking about the players raised in this region or the Warriors themselves?
Lillard made every future Warriors/Blazers game seem that much more enticing, but Golden State had good games from several players and that was the difference.
- Curry didn’t shoot well and at times in the second half seemed to be responding to the Blazers’ 3-point barrage, but he ended up with 12 assists.
- Klay Thompson had one of the savvier, smoother 5-turnover games I can remember (he really does need to stop impersonating Mickael Pietrus and stepping out of bounds unnecessarily, though).
- David Lee had one of those solid David Lee games: 24/10 on 11-of-20 shooting.
- Harrison Barnes looked great early, starting out 4-for-5 before vanishing into the wallpaper.
- Jim Barnett would have you believe Carl Landry was the most selfish player in the world this evening, but he made 7-of-11 shots. Let him take a jumper before four Warriors touch the ball every once in a while, it won’t kill the offense.
- Jarrett Jack had a couple inconvenient turnovers, but he also came fairly close to a triple-double (9 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists).
- I mentioned how Draymond Green’s minutes were shrinking after he only played four against the Grizzlies. Green played 16 minutes against Portland (including 4:35 of the last 5:30 of the game), had two steals and two blocks, and showed the team how to defend Lillard at the end when he picked up the rookie on a switch.
Now is where the Warriors’ season gets difficult. Forget hometown heros turning Oracle into a neighborhood park. Now the Warriors head to Denver, come home to face Miami, then play an away back-to-back in San Antonio and New Orleans before coming back home to face the Clippers and Thunder.
It seemed like such a big deal that the Warriors lost their second game in a row on Wednesday, which is weird when you’re talking about this team. If they can avoid their third straight 2-game losing streak or worse before that stretch ends, that would be a tremendous and more than a little surprising. It would also mean the Warriors will have played 41 games and won at least 26 of them through the true first half of this season.