What Happened: The Warriors Don’t Want to Mess Up Chance the Rapper’s Schedule
The Warriors’ first playoff game with Kevin Durant was as anticipated as it was prewritten. Someone at Oracle is so sure it’ll end in a sweep that Chance the Rapper is scheduled to perform the same night as Game 5 (are you ready for your blessing, Portland?). But after months of hot takes, and this-is-ruining-the-NBA takes, and First Take, it wasn’t even about Durant. The final score, 121–109, deceptively resembled a blowout, but at both halftime and the end of the third quarter, Portland and Golden State were tied. Durant played efficiently (32 points on 20 shots, plus 10 rebounds), but Game 1 belonged to Draymond Green and his defense.
Highlight: Draymond Green’s Block Party
The way Green prowls for stops is always remarkable, contributing to Golden State’s league-best averages in steals, blocks, deflections, and loose ball recoveries. Against the Blazers, Green nearly finished with the elusive 5x5, going for 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocks, and three steals. The team forced 14 turnovers, which eventually became 19 points, and led in blocks 10–3.
With a little under six minutes left in the third, Damian Lillard tossed the ball to Noah Vonleh with the Blazers hoping to take the lead, and ended up aiding and abetting the most dehumanizing block of the playoffs. (It may seem premature to call it that, but the keyboard refuses to type anything else.) Green, the only man back on defense, switched off Lillard in the two-on-one to guard Vonleh, and met him in the air for the contest, powering and reversing a momentum shift like a one-man wind turbine. Draymond stopped midplay to congratulate himself, allowing a four-on-five offensive situation on the other end, but no one was mad.
Lowlight: Dame Gets Stuffed
C.J. McCollum ended the first two quarters with 27 points, tying a Blazers record for the most in a half of a playoff game, and eventually ended two short of his career high, with 41. Lillard contributed another 21 in the first half, with the pair totaling 48 of the team’s 56 points, their highest amount ever combined in one half. It was a dazzling show, but an opening act will never top the closer.
C.J. and Dame were making a run at the best backcourt title, but Green knows no Splash Brothers but those who go by Steph and Klay. With a little under five minutes left, Lillard was stuffed by (who else?) Draymond. Lillard’s performance, racking up 34 points, is half the reason Portland kept three and a half quarters competitive. But this block put the ball back in Curry’s hands, which led to a Durant layup and a 10-point lead, putting a seal on a final push from the Blazers.
What It Means
The Warriors locked this game up, just like Vegas, you, me, the guy at Oracle, and Chancelor Bennett thought. The surprise was how long the Blazers held on.
Jusuf Nurkic’s absence hurts Portland, and even if he can come back later in the series, (a) it would likely be two losses in, minimum, and (b) he’ll still be playing with a broken bone. Having someone down low to complement Lillard and McCollum, and battle with Green, would give the team an entirely different space to compete. Portland remains the team most unlikely to advance. If a historic outing from one of the league’s hottest tandems is not enough to overcome the Warriors’ defense, there probably isn’t an answer.