OAKLAND, Calif. – Outgunned by the underdog Portland Trail Blazers for 47 minutes and without their two most productive big men, the Golden State Warriors employed an unusual strategy when things got desperate Thursday night.
They went away from their backcourt strength and attacked the basket with two of their biggest guys still standing.
Surprisingly, it worked.
Draymond Green lobbed to Kevon Looney for a go-ahead hoop with 52.9 seconds remaining, then converted a Stephen Curry assist into a layup of his own 40 seconds later, allowing the Warriors to outlast the Trail Blazers for a 114-111 win and 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The best-of-seven moves to Portland for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday, respectively. Warriors standout Kevin Durant, who along with frontcourt sidekick DeMarcus Cousins missed the first two games, already has been ruled out of both Portland games because of a strained right calf.
After trailing by as many as 17 points in the third quarter and by eight with just 4:28 to play, the top-seeded Warriors scored 14 of the game’s final 17 points to sweep their opening two home games against the West’s third-seeded club.
“We stole that game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “They outplayed us for the majority of the night, but we brought enough competitive fire in the second half to overcome their great play.
“We’ve been here before. I think our experience helped us.”
Green’s lob to Looney came after Seth Curry, going toe-to-toe with brother Stephen in a historic matchup, had put Portland up 111-110 with a 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining.
After CJ McCollum misfired with a chance to counter Looney’s hoop, the Warriors converted at the other end on Stephen Curry’s pass to Green for a three-point lead with 12.3 seconds to play.
Needing a 3-pointer to tie, Damian Lillard had the ball stripped by Andre Iguodala while elevating for a 28-foot attempt, sealing Golden State’s win.
“Tried to get a little bit of space. … He grabbed my arm and I lost the ball a bit,” Lillard said of the final play. “There was a lot of contact, but obviously the ref is not going to decide the game or jump in at that point. So … good defensive play.”
Stephen Curry had 37 points to lead the Warriors, who have lost just once in their last 11 playoff games against Portland. Green also had a brilliant all-around game for Golden State, contributing 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks in the win.
Klay Thompson added 24 points, Looney 14 and Jordan Bell 11 for Golden State, which outshot Portland 51.2 percent to 44.2 and outrebounded the visitors 50-37.
“Everybody contributed,” Green said of the Durant-less attack. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back. Obviously, we’re a much better team with him on the floor. But right now we’re a very confident group.”
Lillard had a 23-point, 10-assist double-double to lead the Trail Blazers, who lost despite outscoring Golden State 54-27 on 3-pointers.. McCollum finished with 22 points, Seth Curry 16, and Maurice Harkless and Rodney Hood 12 apiece for Portland, which got blown out 116-94 in Game 1 on Tuesday.
“You hate to lose a game, but I think we showed that we can compete with them,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts assessed. “It was a much better game than we played in Game 1. So we’ve got to take that into Game 3.”
The Trail Blazers led 108-100 after a 3-pointer by Meyers Leonard with 4:28 left before the Warriors scored 10 straight, the final three on three free throws by Stephen Curry with 2:01 to go.
Seth Curry countered that with his fourth 3-pointer, setting up the frantic finish.
“This is the coolest experience I’ve ever had,” Stephen Curry said of dueling his brother in a high-stakes series. “He was amazing. It worked out perfectly tonight: He played well, and we won.”
Seemingly rejuvenated by getting a day off Wednesday — after having been rushed into Game 1 in the wake of an emotional series win over Denver — the Trail Blazers threatened to blow out the two-time defending champs, going up 67-50 in the first minute of the second half.
But the Warriors quickly rallied, getting 13 points from Thompson and 11 from Stephen Curry in a 37-15 flurry that turned a 17-point deficit into a five-point lead before the period’s end.
The Trail Blazers led by as many as seven in the first quarter, but it was in the second period that they began dominating the game.
Portland led just 42-39 at the midpoint of the second quarter before Lillard and Seth Curry combined for 14 points in a 20-6 burst that opened a 17-point advantage late in the half.
Lillard, who was scoreless for the game’s first 20 minutes, finished the half with 10. Portland led 65-50 at the break.
(Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media)