For two quarters last night, the Trail Blazers dominated. They led by 13 after the first quarter, pushed that lead to 17, and led by eight at the break. The Warriors offense was stagnant, their defense discombobulated and a beat late, and the entire Blazers team took advantage.
But in the third quarter, as you knew they would, the Warriors started to go on one of their patented runs. The ball movement was much better, and Klay Thompson started showing flashes of his stellar Game 1 performance. The defensive screw was tightened, leading to Mason Plumlee repeatedly getting his shit wrecked. The crowd was building up to that “we’re gonna drop an absurd three on your head and then stomp on your grave” roar as the Warriors cut the lead to six, four, and three.
They couldn’t get any closer than that, however, because Damian Lillard put together as impressive of a seven-minute stretch of basketball as you’ll see:
The most impressive thing about the 17 points Lillard scored in the quarter was how little help he had. Partially a problem of his own making, the Blazers had absolutely no movement on offense. None of the baskets Lillard made were easy; the most help he got was a decent screen or two from Plumlee. Almost everything was off the bounce, against good defenders, and a defense that was keyed in to stop him and him only. And to quote Ralph Lawler, oh me oh my that buzzer-beater was gorgeous.
Lillard was unable to keep up his fingers plugged into all the holes in the dike into the fourth quarter, and the Blazers ultimately collapsed. The lack of ball movement became very apparent when he wasn’t making off-balance 25-footers, and the Warriors run that was threatened in the third quarter materialized in the fourth. They won the fourth quarter 34-12, for an ultimately comfortable 11-point win.
But for about 12 minutes there, it honestly looked like Lillard and Lillard alone was enough to annihilate the Warriors’ juggernaut.