The biggest Warriors myth heading into this season? No rim protection without Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. The second-biggest myth, and the one that took a little more time to disprove, was that they were a top-heavy team with Kevin Durant in tow. Sure, they had four All-Stars plus the best reserve in the NBA, but those All-Stars (plus Andre Iguodala) would have to prop up a team full of players who were either past their primes, too young for prime time, or mostly known for their “Shaqtin’ A Fool” clips.
“We are pretty thin,” Steve Kerr claimed less than two hours before Game 2, which the Warriors won 110-81. Yep, without Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston or Matt Barnes, the Warriors embarrassed their opponents from the Pacific Northwest. And the easy victory was thanks in large part to contributions from guys like JaVale McGee, Patrick McCaw … and just about everyone else on the active roster.
If the Warriors were thin, the Blazers were invisible.
Tonight was when this became a traditional 1-seed vs. 8-seed matchup, and that’s very bad news for a Portland team that was only without one key player in Jusuf Nurkic. Who would pick up all those minutes for the Warriors as they worked to patch together a rotation? Well, Damian Jones played the last 6:09 of the fourth quarter and was cheered like a walk-on reserve on senior night when he scored his first playoff point on a free throw.
You know who could’ve used Jones tonight? The Blazers, who couldn’t even trust Meyers Leonard for more than one possession because the Warriors mercilessly played the “McGee Lob” card immediately.
Portland’s best player might be C.J. McCollum, who only scored 11 points tonight on 4-of-17 shooting after dropping 41 on the Warriors in Game 1. Their spokesman/athlete/rapper/star, Damian Lillard, had a performance that was arguably worse than McCollum’s. Lillard went 5-for-17, went 0-for-4 on 3-point attempts, somehow went 30 minutes without a single assist despite handling the ball more than anyone else, and was rudely rejected (yes, again) on a dunk attempt.
Last time it was Draymond Green doing the rejecting, and the block was so memorable that we released this new shirt design before Game 2 (available for the playoffs only):
Green’s block was perfect visually, and apparently it took the air out of Lillard for multiple days. Because no one saw this coming.
Klay Thompson meets Damian Lillard at the rim with a big block pic.twitter.com/NDb6fI9ulS
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) April 20, 2017
Maybe we need to make a new shirt, although we feel like this new one represents Klay Thompson pretty well.
And credit Steph Curry for making this pass, because there was no way Thompson was missing after that.
Klay 3 after block on Lillard and ran transition pic.twitter.com/DmxOhhDR84
— Jesse McKenzie (@OnTheMac) April 20, 2017
Did Green think Thompson was capable of blocking one of the league’s most explosive athletes at the rim?
“No. It was pretty amazing though. For him to go vertical and then just block the shot like that was a pretty monstrous block. You know, it was fitting that he got a three at the end. That’s what Klay’s all about. He’s about getting his shots up.”
The funny thing about this particular blowout win, other than McGee going 7-for-7, scoring 15 points, blocking 4 shots, and finishing +19 in 13 minutes, was that the Warriors supposedly needed Curry and Thompson to have great nights to take a decisive edge in this series. Not quite! Thompson went 6-for-17. Curry went 6-for-18. They combined for 35 points and 10 turnovers. Curry took a spill and held his hip for a bit, and seemed rather stiff throughout. Thompson had both great and strange moments (both guys seemed to have trouble with their footing when making moves in traffic), and smart-ass fans will blame Wednesday’s proximity to April 20.
This was just an ugly game, period. But the Warriors are the most versatile winners in the league, able to triumph in shootouts and slugfests alike. When the other team doesn’t punch back, even in the playoffs, you get a night like Game 2 of this first round series.
That this game took place immediately after Russell Westbrook collected yet another triple-double with 50 points, while clanking several threes at the end of a close contest that the Rockets ended up winning, shined a light on something basketball fans can’t help but notice about the Warriors. The stats really don’t matter for these guys. Not when they keep winning. It’s almost like the Warriors are so good that teams like the Thunder are setting different goals, but that’s a post for another day.
Our brand of basketball
It was fun to play “Mark Jackson BINGO” with all of his catchphrases. But once again we’re reminded that the Jackson’s legacy still lives on in one small way around here. The Warriors are still able to win despite less-than-spectacular shooting numbers, and sometimes win convincingly, as long as they defend.
“I felt like we were both surrounded by two and three guys each time we got past our defender,” said Lillard of Portland’s backcourt struggles.
As long as Green is anchoring the defense, and the Warriors don’t give up too many second-chance points, and Thompson and Curry flit around the perimeter, causing confusion and errant passes, they don’t really need Durant to beat the bottom 25 or so teams in the league.
“A lot of people do talk about the four of us. But one thing that’s constant in this organization is everybody. The strength in numbers. You know, the depth that we rely on so heavily throughout the course of the year and through the playoffs, and it’s showing up tonight. Steph didn’t have a huge game. I didn’t have a huge game. Klay didn’t have a huge game, yet we were able to put the game together that we did tonight,” Green said.
“It’s a testament to that depth.”
— McCaw led both teams in minutes with 34:24. Curry, Thompson and Green all played between 30 and 31. He even complained to an official after a nice driving layup.
“I actually thought he was barking on C.J., that’s why I was so excited,” Green said. “It’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen him show any emotion.”
— McGee wasn’t just crushing lobs, he was grabbing rebounds (5) and made a couple nifty layups.
— They’ll probably be fired up to start Game 3, seeing as the game was at home, but this game felt like an indictment of this Blazers roster. They overspent during the craziest NBA summer in recent memory, adding Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe for a combined $36 million per year, and now they have very little flexibility. Jusuf Nurkic — who the Blazers are probably tempted to shut down at this point, seeing how this series is going — was a great acquisition. But this team is limited, and you could sense it in Lillard’s body language, the team’s lack of fight in the third quarter, and Terry Stotts’ decision to pull the plug early in the fourth.
— So now the question is when Durant will be asked to return. With no knowledge of the severity of his calf strain, and assuming that it’s very minor, why bring him back unless they lose both games at Moda Center? If the Warriors defend nearly as well as they did in Game 2 in the two games up north, Golden State will either sweep or head back to Oakland with a 3-1 series lead.