Portland took its best back-court shot, but it wasn't enough


Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum vs. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, first duo to 75, or 100, or 120 ... game on!

Two-on-two basketball, barking back and forth, trick shots and 30-foot fliers, may the best and bounciest back court win.

The Portland Trail Blazers desperately wanted it in Game 1 on Sunday, and tried everything within their power to push and prod and tempt the "Splash Brothers" into that rat-a-tat shoot-out — and nobody else in the league dares to try this.

Maybe a year or two ago, Curry and Thompson would've taken the bait and maybe a year or two ago the Warriors would've needed them to.

But not this calm and secure edition of the Warriors, not with Draymond Green generating 100 mega-watts of defensive energy and JaVale McGee chasing and batting down every basketball in a 20-foot radius and... oh yeah, there's that Kevin Durant guy, too.

On Sunday, after McCollum and Lillard's whirlwind 48 combined points in the first half — on their way to 75 combined in the game — the Warriors' All-Star backcourt took it in, took the long view, ramped up the defense, and chipped in their usual stuff in an eventual 121-109 victory.

One way to look at it: The Trail Blazers took their best shot, landed it early and directly on the Warriors' starry tandem... and the Warriors still won and never really seemed in deep jeopardy.

"I wouldn't call it demoralizing," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Certainly it's disappointing to lose the game. You go into the fourth quarter tied, but it's a tough place to play, and I think that, if anything, it show that the prospects are good.

"I think that we found ways to score. We just have to score for four quarters. So, no, not demoralizing at all."

Another way to look at it: What happens when Curry and Thompson win this battle for a game or two? And you know they will.

On Sunday, Lillard and McCollum cut into the lane, finished with acrobatics, fired away from long-range, combined for 54 shot attempts, and basically were a two-man gang that kept the game tied through three quarters.

Then the Warriors took control of the game when they finally started stopping McCollum and Lillard in the fourth quarter, happily took the 1-0 lead in this series... and still have so much more to expect from Curry and Thompson (and Durant and Andre Iguodala and a few others).

Maybe in a future game, in a much later round of these playoffs, the Warriors will need Curry and Thompson to score more than the 29 and 15 points they scored on Sunday.

But until then, who needs a backcourt duel?

"No, they can go for a combined 75 points, they're amazing players," Thompson said of McCollum and Lillard. "But at the end of the day it's a team game and I'd rather win the game than go into a back court battle.

"That means nothing if you don't win."

Curry scored his 29 points on 19 shots and Thompson started drowsily and ended up with 15 points on 16 shots — which means they combined to take 29 fewer shots than the Portland back court.

There is just as much pressure on McCollum and Lillard as there was on Curry and Thompson in the Warriors' pre-Steve Kerr playoff runs in 2013 and 2014, and those were fun Warriors teams.

But they were not championship-level teams, and Curry and Thompson understand what kind of burden this can be from game to game as you go deeper into a series... or through the playoffs.

On Sunday, they had to deal with a red-hot scoring duo, right from the start, and Curry and Thompson knew that they could survive it.

"They're going to try to force the issue and you've just got to stay solid," Curry said of the Trail Blazer tandem. "Understand that it's a long game, and you try to wear them down.

"But it doesn't affect how we play on the other end. We know how we execute what our bread and butter is at the other end of the floor and we've got to rely on that and not get into that one-on-one battle at all."

It's part of the long game, and the Warriors can absolutely play it, which is what Kerr did on Sunday.

Here's what the Warriors got accomplished:

—They got Durant wholly into the flow after his three-game post-injury tuneup to close the regular season; when the Warriors needed a half-court basket on Sunday, it was usually a play designed for Durant, and it was usually Durant charging to the rim without many obstacles.

—They locked in most of their rotation — and Kerr has put together a ferocious defensive-minded unit to start the second and fourth quarters, led by Green, and that group absolutely took over this game.

—And they can let Curry and Thompson work themselves into this series, and into the playoffs, and if Portland gets monster games from both Lillard and McCollum and still doesn't have enough to win, then all the better.

"We won and I don't care if we won by 2 or 12," Thompson said. "I'm happy we got the 'W,' and it's good we didn't blow them out because we won't relax. We respect them and have to come out with the same fire on Wednesday."

It doesn't seem entirely likely that McCollum and Lillard will be this good again in Game 2; and it seems extremely probable that Curry and Thompson will be livelier and more productive in the next one and the one after that.

And then watch out.


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