After one of the greatest playoff rounds in recent memory, and likely the most entertaining second round of all time capped off by Kawhi Leonard’s multiple-bounce series winner, it was going to be hard for the conference finals to live up to that level of drama.
Game 1 of Golden State-Portland was a bad start, as the Warriors won comfortably, 116-94. The game might have been even worse than expected, as neither team brought the requisite energy of an NBA final four bout. Truthfully, the Draft Lottery before the game was far more compelling than anything that came during the contest.
On the one hand, it really isn’t fair for the Trail Blazers, fresh off a dramatic Game 7 win of their own against the Denver Nuggets, to be expected to compete against Warriors. Portland and Golden State have faced off in the playoffs twice during this era of Warriors hegemony, and the only game the Blazers won came with Steph Curry inactive back in 2016.
With Jusuf Nurkic out and Enes Kanter manning the middle, Portland has very little chance of effectively containing Golden State on defense, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Kanter also played the Warriors in the playoffs as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016. He was riding high after being an integral part of the Thunder’s upset over the 67-win Spurs in the previous round, but was played off the court by Curry and Klay Thompson in the conference finals. A similar scenario is playing out this year.
The Blazers use a drop coverage that keeps their bigs back to protect the paint on pick-and-rolls. That’s death against Curry, who feasted for nine threes Tuesday, seven of which were classified as uncontested. Personnel limitations or not, there has to be a more reasonable defensive scheme, like hedging, that prevents the greatest shooter of all-time from getting loose seven times in one game, especially when that game features garbage time.
#SPLASH x 9⃣@StephenCurry30 was feelin’ it last night, matching his #NBAPlayoffs career-high with nine triples in the win pic.twitter.com/ystGR7i1jT
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 15, 2019
Again, it’s not really Portland’s fault that their roster forces them into coverages that Golden State has been dealing with throughout the regular season. No one’s asking them to be the Rockets. But even the Clippers managed to confuse the Warriors during their first-round series, using a top-blocking strategy that created some additional turnovers and frustrated Kevin Durant into delivering his now famous line, “I’m Kevin Durant, you know who I am.”
With the way the Blazers were playing, Golden State was able to treat this game with the intensity of a regular-season contest, not a playoff a game, and certainly not a conference finals showdown. The contrast between this game and the previous series could not have been clearer for the Warriors.
Against Houston, Golden State was barely able to find seven rotation players …read more