Man, this really seemed like it could be the one, a meaningful playoff victory...but alas, it slipped away. Blazers fans filed into the Moda Center on Saturday night full of hope. Their team was down 0-2 in a best of seven series against the best basketball team in the world, the Golden State Warriors, but things would be a little different this game. The Blazers were now on their home court and news had just filtered down the Jusuf Nurkic, the Bosnian Beast, would be back in uniform after missing three weeks due to a fractured leg. Perhaps there was a chance to make this a tight series and "shock the world" as Blazer guard Damien Lillard had predicted. And there was. Things were close all the way until the end. But sadly, it was the Warriors who came through in the final minutes, crushing Blazer dreams of an extended postseason. The final score was 119-113.
The Moda Center was packed and rocking from the start and the Blazers responded by jumping to an early lead. Lillard in particular was on fire, scoring 15 points in the first quarter alone. At one point in the second quarter the Blazer lead grew to 17 points, a serious deficit for most teams, but no one felt comfortable against the Golden state jauggernaut. Even without Kevin Durant (calf injury) it seemed only a matter of time before Steph Curry and Klay Thompson found their shots and made an obligatory run. Defensively the Warriors were a like a swarm of bees, making the Blazers work hard for every shot.
Portland led 67-54 at halftime, a respectable lead, even though we all sensed what was coming. Here's a look at some of the fans roaming the halls during the break:
This dude below was wearing a Sonics jersey, an insider show of support for injured Warrior Kevin Durant, who was drafted by the now defunct Seattle team. But he was still rooting for the Blazers, he said, thus the hat:
There were plenty of Warriors fans in the house, many of whom traveled all the way from the Bay area for the game, like this cheerful gal here:
And look, it's XRAY FM's Jefferson Smith talking bball and politics with former Oregon State Rep. Brent Barton:
I got to hang at the game with awesome Portland actor, and huge Blazer fan, Vin Shambry. As we were wandering the halls he spotted none other than former Blazer superstar Cliff Robinson. Uncle Spliffy!
Okay, back to the game. The third quarter started out pretty well as the Blazers held onto their lead. Then at around the 6 minute mark, the Warriors went on a devastating 19-1 run. Ugh. Suddenly all those shots which had come easy in the first half were nowhere to be found, and even though it was great to have big man Jusuf Nurkic back on the floor, he began to look tired and slow and coach Stotts was forced to pull him out of the game.
Things went back and forth for a while after that Warriors run. The Blazers showed grit and took the lead again off an Aminu three pointer. They were ahead by one point going into the fourth quarter. The crowd desperately wanted to see this game defy expectations and roared loudly every time the Blazers hit a shot. But Golden state is just a very very good team, and they pulled away during the forth quarter, never quite falling back within reach. A Steph Curry dagger three pointer sealed the deal in the final minute of play. Game over, dudes.
At the post-game press conference afterwards Coach Stotts seemed pretty resigned to their fate. He offered a lot of respect for the Warriors. "They took it up another level," he said.
Dame and CJ came out looking sharp in their respective suits and took questions from the press with their usual class. CJ said he regretted committing some crucial turnovers late in the game. Lillard said they weren't giving up by any means, but they knew it was a long shot, a really long shot at this point. "We're down 3-0 to a really good team," he said.
My pal Vin was sad like the rest of us, but his spirits were buoyed a bit after he got to snap this selfie with Dame. Hero!
So, yeah, the Blazers are down 3-0 against the best team in the world. Will they comeback? Not a chance, really. But the series isn't over and there's at least one more game at the Moda Center on Monday night. Tickets to that game could probably be found at a discount at this point and it's likely your final chance to see the Blazers play this season, barring a set of very unexpected turnarounds.