The Best Is Yet to Come

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John Askins

Staff Writer

 

The Golden State Warriors finished off another incredible regular season with the best record and very arguably as the best team in the NBA. After enduring a few rough patches, including a 2-5 stretch in early March, the Warriors were firing on all cylinders down the season’s home stretch. Kevin Durant returned from his knee injury and was magically in playoff form, Stephen Curry began to look like the reigning MVP again, and the team ended the season on a 15-1 tear that reinstated their status as the team to beat in today’s extraordinarily competitive NBA.

After securing the 1-seed in the Western Conference, the Dubs were poised to face the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.  The Blazers, led by the highest scoring backcourt in the league, comprised of the Oakland-native Damian Lillard (27.0PPG) and sharpshooter C.J. McCollum (23.0PPG). Portland came into the matchup with a chip on their shoulder after Golden State made short work of them in last year’s Western Conference Semifinals (4-1).

 

While both teams entered the matchup red-hot, the Warriors clearly possessed the more talented group of players. That being said, Portland’s Lillard-McCollum backcourt is not to be underestimated. The two combined for 75 points in Game 1, and scored at will all night long which kept the Blazers competitive for the entirety of the contest. However, the Warriors came to play in front of the Oracle crowd, and managed a 121-109 victory behind Draymond Green’s monster 19pt-13reb-9ast-3stl-5blk game and Durant’s efficient 32pts in just his fourth game back from injury.  However, Durant injured his calf and proceeded to miss the next two games in the series.

 

Game 2 had a very unlikely hero, a player acquired in an under the radar move made by the Warriors in the offseason, someone who had become an afterthought in many GM’s minds: Javale McGee. The uber-athletic 7-footer dominated the game in his 13 minutes, scoring 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks. An astounding line given the limited minutes. If that wasn’t good enough, he did it on a perfect 7-7 from the floor. At times it looked like Golden State’s sole motive was to get him lobs. His immense wingspan and vertical allowed him to get up higher than any other player on the floor, which usually resulted in a thunderous alley-oop finish. The Warriors put the Blazers away in the second quarter, not coincidentally the same quarter McGee did most of his damage, and never looked back in the 110-81 win.

 

As the series travelled to Portland, many were interested to see how they would respond once they returned to Moda Center, a difficult place to play in the regular season. The Blazers jumped out to an early lead fuelled by their home crowd, and their backcourt was sizzling and getting whatever they wanted both from the 3-pt line and in the paint. Lillard and McCollum scored 31 and 32 points, respectively, and were the driving force behind Portland’s early success. Portland guard Evan Turner contributed as well, posting 16 points and 8 rebounds in extended time. The Warriors entered halftime down 17 points and uninspired, but ripped off an unreal 21-3 run at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Warrior’s Andre Iguodala slashed his way to 16 points, and reminded everybody just how athletic he still is with a handful of powerful jams. The Blazers were left clinging onto a 1-point lead at the start of the 4th and fought valiantly  throughout the back-and-forth final period. Portland tried to play at the torrid pace the Warriors were setting and it continued to hurt them as Golden State built a lead off primarily fastbreak buckets. Lillard and McCollum did their best to keep their team close, but it ultimately was too much to overcome the Warriors all-out second half assault, and they took Game 3 109-103.

 

Monday, April 24, Game 4 was set to tip-off, and the Warriors showed right away that they came to play. They jumped off the blocks to a ridiculous 25-3 lead, hitting 15 of their first 19 shots. Before the 1st quarter ended fans stopped asking “Are they going to pull off the sweep?” and wondered “How much are they gonna win by?” Golden State tied a playoff record by scoring 45 points in the first quarter and never looked back. Curry ignited from downtown, hitting seven threes on his way to 37 points, his highest total of the series. Lillard and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were the only two that showed up for the Blazers and scored 34 and 25 points respectively. McCollum on the other hand did his best disappearing act and finished with just 6 points on 2-12 shooting.  

 

With the 128-104 blowout win, the Warriors complete their first-round sweep and now have time to rest their injuries and wait to see the outcome of the Los Angeles Clippers-Utah Jazz series, whom they will be facing next.

 

Lastly, our thoughts go out to Steve Kerr and wish him well in recovering from his illness and injury.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

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