The Portland Trail Blazers hope to take their improved play a step further on their home court Saturday night when they seek their first win of the Western Conference finals in Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors.
The Trail Blazers played competitively with the two-time defending champions on the road for more than three quarters in Game 1 on Tuesday before taking a lead into the final minute of the rematch on Thursday.
The result: two losses, but a greater confidence that their third try in the best-of-seven series will produce better results.
“They earned it down the stretch,” Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum said of Golden State’s 14-3 finish Thursday after the Warriors trailed by eight. “They made more plays than us in the last two minutes, last three minutes, but I like our chances going forward. I like the way we came out and competed.
“We got to bring that same energy at home. Understand that this is the first time in 19 years we’ve been in the conference final. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity playing at home and building on what we’ve done. Being down 0-2, it’s not what you would like to see, but it’s our reality, so now we got to go get some at home.”
The Trail Blazers responded well to adversity in their most recent home game, dominating the final three quarters in a 119-108 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western semifinals when a loss would have ended their season. Portland then won Game 7 at Denver, 100-96.
Most of Portland’s improvement in the wake of a 116-94 loss to Golden State in Game 1 came on the offensive end, where the visitors shot 44.2 percent, up from 36.1 percent, and outscored the Warriors 54-27 on 3-pointers after having been crushed 51-21 from beyond the arc in the series opener.
Portland reserve Seth Curry was the biggest difference-maker. After shooting 1-for-7 overall and 1-for-4 on 3-point attempts in Game 1, he stunned Warriors fans — and his brother Stephen — with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting (4-for-7 on threes) on Thursday.
He also recorded four steals, three against his more famous brother.
“He was a pest,” Stephen Curry said of his brother. “(He) made three big shots (in) the fourth quarter that were very timely. But it worked out perfectly: He played well and we won.”
For the second game in a row, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson got the better of their heralded Portland counterparts, McCollum and Damian Lillard. After outscoring their rivals 62-36 in Game 1, the Warriors’ All-Star duo won the battle 61-45 in the rematch.
Golden State traveled to Portland on Friday without injured forward Kevin Durant, who has been ruled out of the next three games. But the Warriors have won three in a row without him, including a series-clinching Game 6 in Houston last week.
“We’re fortunate to be in the position we’re in,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Golden State’s 114-111 victory Thursday, a game in which his team trailed by as many as 17 points. “We know we’re going into one of the toughest arenas to play in in the league.
“We’ve been in this situation many times, so we know how we have to play. We’ve got to play with great discipline and some desperation like we did for only parts of (Game 2). We’ve got to play that way the whole game, and that’s what it will take up in Portland.”
The Warriors have won at least one road game in each of their past 21 postseason series, an NBA record.
—Field Level Media