Defending the Warriors for 48 minutes is a frustrating task.
The Blazers found that out on Saturday night, as they seemed to have the game under control in the first half and into the third quarter. But … then they didn’t. The Warriors used a 19-1 run to erase a huge deficit, take the lead and hang on for a 119-113 win.
Now, unless the Blazers can overcome a 3-0 deficit (and break Twitter by the sheer volume of “Warriors blew a 3-0 lead” memes), this series is essentially over.
Here are some takeaways from Game 3.
That escalated quickly
It wasn’t just that the Warriors went on a big run — NBA teams go on runs a lot — it was the way that they did it. It was Steph Curry penetrating, it was Klay Thompson going on one of his signature 3-point barrages, it was Draymond Green blocking shots, corralling the ball and throwing a lob on the other end, and it was JaVale McGee wreaking absolute havoc with his length and athleticism — something we’ve grown accustomed to in the 2017 playoffs.
Everyone knew Golden State was scary, but runs like the one tonight just remind you that when the team is clicking they’re pretty much impossible to defend because of their versatility and skill. Oh yeah, and Kevin Durant didn’t even play.
JaVale enters the Death Lineup
So when should we stop being surprised at how well JaVale McGee is playing? The darling of the 2017 playoffs did it again, scoring 14 points in 15 minutes and was a +24 in his time on the court. Plus 24! McGee was clearly the catalyst for the Dubs’ third-quarter run, and he impressed so much that he even earned crunch time minutes with the lineup of death.
McGee’s emergence is a real playoff story, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to make an impact as the opponents get tougher (and bigger).
One positive that the Blazers can take out of the game, and into next season, is that Jusuf Nurkic returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games of the regular season and the first two games of this series with a fracture in his leg. Nurkic was predictably rusty, but did solidify the middle in the beginning of the game, allowing Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to get going early. Nurkic finished with just two points, but pulled down 11 boards in 16 minutes. Since it appears he’s going to be an important part of this team moving forward, it’s important for Nurkic to get some playoff experience under his belt.
Rest up, K.D.
Saturday’s win gives the Warriors the opportunity to rest Durant in Game 4 without a guilty conscience to let his calf continue to heal. A 2-1 series on the road would have added a little more pressure, but now there’s almost no reason to play Durant at all. If Golden State can pull off the sweep, it will await the winner of the Clippers-Jazz series, which appears to have six or seven games written all over it. If that’s the case, K.D. will have plenty of time to get right before rejoining the starting lineup for the conference semis.