In what felt like a remake of last year’s postseason series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors was playing without one of their best players. With Kevin Durant out with a slight calf strain, and coming off a narrower victory than thought, the Warriors would seem in a tougher position than Sunday. Then in a remake of the regular season, the Durant-less Warriors reached into their bag of championship tricks and pulled out the defense that made them wholly unstoppable in a 3-year run for the NBA history books.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson jacked up some unbearable shots and JaVale McGee led the team in points through the deeper parts of the third quarter before a small Splash Brothers explosion. With the bench relinquishing a 16-point lead and the offense struggling against a smallball lineup with Al Farouq Aminu at the 5, the Warriors looked like they can at times in the postseason: sluggish and questioning.
The Ron Adams defense solved this game by holding off a Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum-led offense just enough before their own stars regressed to the mean. Leaving the supporting cast of the Blazers wide open on nearly every possession, they swarmed the two guards at the paint, forcing them into the same tough midrange floaters they started missing and closing off the 3-pt line. The duo combined for only 7 long-range attempts, making just one.
Without Durant, the energy etches up about 10 notches, knowing the margin of error is smaller than before. Time and time again, knowing that buckets were a little harder to come by, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and even Curry and Patrick McCaw stayed in front of their own man, not allowing the drive-and-kick flow offense of the Blazers get started downhill.
The defensive show peaked with Thompson blocking Lillard at the rim and nailing down an open 3 in transition in a 3-second sequence.
Sprinkled into the 81-point defensive masterpiece were the efforts of Javale McGee and Patrick McCaw. McGee injected an energy on offense and defense often seen in the regular season. Almost immediately after a slightly slow start, fans were heard screaming “Bring in McGee!” Going a perfect 7-7 from the field is no easy feat. But the newfound ability to stay on the floor on pump-fakes and protecting the rim provided an unforeseen improvement even to this staunchest supporters. After the game, he gave credit to Ron Adams, who might be able to turn even the worst defenders into adequate showmen on that end.
And with a preview to the future, McCaw finished a +27, behind only Steph and Klay, in 34 minutes. He guarded Lillard and handled himself fine while staying aggressive on offense when needed. HIs length on defense and touch on offense will be something to behold in future seasons. For now, his ability as a rookie to not only stay afloat but even excel in spot minutes in the postseason is a precursor to this team’s depth and coaching staff.
With the 110-81 win, the Warriors go up 2-0 and the question becomes whether they will lose a game as they look towards the second round. For a team that seemed destined for a special ending to last year, that special postseason run might start rearing its head soon enough. They haven’t talked about it but the schedule sets up nearly perfectly. For a long Durant rest, for a romp through another West Coast team next round, and for a blemish-less postseason that would put this Golden State Warriors team in the record books as peerless as ever before.