On the way to the Moda center last night, amongst all the fans jaywalking to the arena, and the ones guzzling beers before the game at Dr. Jacks, the ratio of blue and gold to red and black was most definitely skewed in the Golden State Warrior’s favor. Normally I glare in their direction and my subconscious screams fair weather fan—but nowadays, how can you blame anyone for jumping on the bandwagon? Golden State is a championship team. A towering juggernaut that went 24-0 at the beginning of this season, and now sits at a cool 33-2 record. Who doesn’t want to be a fan of a team that seemingly can’t lose?
Me, I’m an eternal optimist. Anything is possible. No matter how insurmountable the odds may look, there’s always a slim chance they will go in your favor. The Trail Blazers annihilated the Cavaliers in December, so who’s to say we couldn’t do the same thing, right? Anybody can have a bad night and give up a game. Just look at the Blazers 108-98 loss against the Clippers this last Wednesday. You’d think the Blazers each played with one hand tied behind their backs and had one eye closed too. Somebody should dare Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to play the game on one foot. Maybe that would better our chances.
The Trail Blazers haven’t won a game against the Warriors in two seasons. Last night marked the first of four match-ups against Golden State this season. All signs pointed to Golden State running a clinic. However, if our bench could produce like we’ve seen them do before, if Damian Lillard could play like he did in the second half of Wednesday’s game for all of his minutes, and if we could have zero crippling clerical errors and make sure all of our starters are marked “active” on paper, it seems like we may have been able to make a showing.
Unfortunately, the fates and common sense prevailed. Damian Lillard made a valiant, Atlas-like effort with 40 points and 10 assists, and the Blazers kept turnovers in single digits with 9, but the gleam from Golden State’s crown just proved too blinding. The Blazers fell 128-108.
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Confidence oozed off of Stephen Curry as he brought the ball up the court to start the game. He looked like he was royalty walking through a peasant village. The Warriors offense was quick and merciless. Plus, every time they made a hoop, the crowd roared. You’d think we were in Oakland. On the other end of the court, the Blazers couldn’t get anything done. Andrew Bogut kept the paint locked down like a fortress, and the Blazers were getting no good looks anywhere else. They didn’t get a field goal until almost five minutes into the first quarter. It wasn’t until most of the Warrior’s starters were off the court that the Blazers started finding the bottom of the net. The Warriors took a 17 point lead into the second quarter, with Klay Thompson going 5-5 from beyond the arc. Yikes.
Two minutes into the second, Alan Crabbe finally woke up the Blazer fans with a huge steal, followed by a monster dunk bringing the Blazers within eight. It seemed like spirits were starting to rise. That was until the Warriors received a goaltending call in their favor, only to have the Blazers not receive one for the exact same scenario directly after. Coach Stotts went about five feet onto the court gesticulating like a maniac with most of the assistant coaching staff following close behind him waving clip boards. If refs are the figures of justice on the court, then justice truly was blind. The Warriors had the Blazers cold with a 22 point lead heading into the half.
I retreated to the facilities during halftime, and on the way back I ran into legendary Trail Blazers announcer Bill Schonley. I figured he would have some confidence and share my rosie outlook, but even he was disheartened by the game so far.
“What do you think, Bill? We gonna turn this one around tonight?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he said solemnly. “They’re so good. They’re just beautiful to watch.”
Six minutes into the 3rd, the Warriors still owned both sides of the court. Klay Thompson was pushing 30 points, and Draymond Green was one rebound away from a double-double. The Blazers continued their odd habit of tossing passes to people who weren’t there. Mason Plumlee shuffled a behind the back pass that missed Al-Farouq Aminu by about four feet. Its almost as if they have the play book so tattooed on their brain that they don’t take improvisation or the flow of the game into consideration. With two minutes left in the 3rd, Curry drained a three bringing the Warriors up to triple digits. Already. The curtain was already starting to drop.
Come the fourth quarter, and there wasn’t really much to speak of from there. Anytime the Blazers tried to start a run, the Warriors would stop it dead. It was like watching a team of basketball super-computers play. With about eight minutes left in the match, Stotts threw in the towel and dropped the bench into the game. Pat Connaughton and Tim Frazier got some time, and the crowd started filing out. Well, maybe 55-60% of the crowd. The rest bathed in blue and gold stayed to watch the final nail get hammered home to seal the coffin.