Golden State Warriors battle back, stake 2-0 lead over Trail Blazers – USA TODAY

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OAKLAND – When a history-making team like these Golden State Warriors has earned the distinction of being one of the best of all time, there’s an unspoken reality about the postseason marathon that is worth, well, speaking on.

Energy conservation is key in the early rounds, when opponents like their Western Conference Semifinals foe, the Portland Trailblazers, are inferior and the odds of achieving the greater goal (in this case a title defense) almost certainly decrease every time there’s a lackluster loss that extends the series. Now add in the uniqueness of the Stephen Curry factor – the reigning MVP is still recovering from a right knee sprain and has been out of action since halftime of an April 24 game against Houston – and this dire need to avoid unnecessary playoff drama goes to a whole new level. In essence, going for the kill at every turn is imperative.

The Warriors did just that in their 110-99 win that put them up 2-0 against the Blazers – but barely.

On this night in which sharpshooter Klay Thompson couldn’t find his stroke for three quarters and the Blazers’ brilliant backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum found theirs after a brutal Game 1 showing, and the Warriors trailed by as many as 17 points, Golden State closed like champs. The Warriors outscored Portland 34-12 in the fourth quarter, earning them the vital breathing they so badly need. Warriors forward Draymond Green, as he so often does, pushed through on an imperfect night to make the most of the biggest moments: his block at the rim of Mason Plumlee with 3:34 left sent the Oracle Arena crowd into a tizzy, and the decibel levels spiked yet again when he flew in from the right side for a dunk that put the Warriors up 100-95.

“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” Green said. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us…It’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”

Thompson found his way just in time, too, finishing with 27 points on seven of 20 shooting (five of 14 from three-point range). Green had 17 points (seven of 20 shooting), 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Point guard Shaun Livingston, who is filling in for Curry during this absence that could end as soon as Game 3 on Saturday, had 14 points as well.

Super sixth man Andre Iguodala added 15 points on six of nine shooting, and little-used reserve Festus Ezeli had eight points (all in the fourth on four of four shooting), six rebounds and a block in just 13 minutes. The Blazers, who were led by Lillard’s 25 points and 22 from McCollum, hit just five of 19 shots in the fourth quarter while giving up five turnovers.

Not since May 10, 1987 have the Warriors outscored an opponent by such a large margin in one quarter of a playoff game (22). In that 129-121 Western Conference Semifinals win over the Lakers that staved off elimination until the next game, Warriors great Sleepy Floyd had 29 points in the fourth. This time, it was all about the Warriors’ defense.

“I think it was intensity, but I thought, again, Festus (made a big impact), just because he was so active and mobile against all their actions that they run, he just made things tougher on their guards,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They’re so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond, those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top.

“Everybody deserves credit, not just those two guys. Andre kept us in the game in the first half I thought when things weren’t going well, and Klay stayed with it. He had a rough start to the game, but really came up huge, and same with Shaun. I think Shaun was 1 for 7 at halftime, and made probably the biggest shot on of the game on that fadeaway with two minutes left to move (the deficit) from 5 to 7. I could keep going, but we turned around what was a pretty bad game for us, and we had enough time to get back.”

As Oklahoma City’s Game 2 win at San Antonio on Monday night showed, the playoffs can give you whiplash sometimes. And just as so many had incorrectly assumed that the Spurs’ momentum would continue unabated, there was a strong sense heading into Game 2 of this Warriors-Blazers affair that this was an even more one-sided matchup. But the Blazers, that team which lost four of its five starters from last season and whose very presence at this point in the playoffs is a testament to their collective spirit, clearly didn’t see it the same way.

They jumped out to a 19-5 lead by way of a role reversal from Game 1, the Warriors missing 11 of their first 13 shots while McCollum wasted no time heating up and forward Al-Farouq Aminu joined in early too (10 first quarter points). Even still, the 34-21 edge entering the second quarter was hardly the kind of thing that sparked angst in a fanbase that has grown so accustomed to seeing its team provide offensive fireworks. But this time, it was the Blazers who just kept lighting up the nets.

Every time the Warriors surged, the Blazers had a response. They led 59-51 at halftime, having held the Warriors to just three three-pointers in all (and Thompson to seven points). And when Lillard’s three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer fell through and gave them an 87-76 lead, capping his 17-point period that had the Oakland native’s family and friends going wild in the stands, it seemed entirely believable that the Warriors were about to add to their already-daunting workload.

Alas, Lillard missed all three of his shots in the fourth and was held scoreless when it mattered most. The Warriors, true to form, found a way.

“Things were going our way,” Lillard said. “We made shots. We played team ball. We really played hard defensively. We were playing a great game.

“I think nights like tonight, they suck. It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the ‘L.’ But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”

Golden State Warriors battle back, stake 2-0 lead over Trail Blazers – USA TODAY

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