It was the best win of the season for the Blazers, and it came at a great time, right before the All-Star break. The Blazers welcomed reigning NBA champions, The Golden State Warriors, to their home court for a nationally televised showdown, and sent the big boys packing with a shocking 123-117 beatdown. Superstar Kevin Durant scored 50, but Portland's now famous backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for a whooping 73 points and outshined everyone. The home crowd went wild for the sweet Valentines Day victory.
The Blazers came out firing from the start, torching the lackadaisical Warriors for 40 points in the first quarter alone. Golden State didn't seem too concerned early on and we all braced ourselves for their inevitable onslaught as things progressed. Before the game Damian Lillard was presented with his all-star jersey, Portland's sole representative. Golden State has four all-stars this year.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have been called "the best backcourt of all time" but on this night Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum set out to make their case as well. Curry and Thompson struggled to contain them all night. Lillard was particularly impressive with 44 points and 8 assists. Jusuf Nurkic also brought his "A" game, notching 17 points and 13 rebounds.
The Blazers held a 12 point lead at halftime, but no one in the building believed that was safe. As usual, there were large swaths of blue and gold clad Warriors fans throughout the arena, an annoying reality when the most popular basketball team in the world comes to town. Here's a look at some of the fans at the game:
These Blazers fans two said their son roots for the Blazers on any other night. He said loves the Warriors, "because of KD".
This guy brought the spirit:
So did these two:
Like I said, warriors fans were abundant. An informal sampling suggested that they were equal numbers fans from traveling from out of town to see the champs and Bay Area transplants who have moved to Portland and don't yet know enough to root for their rightful home team. These two came from Seattle. They became Warriors fans after the Sonics left:
And Look! It's rocker/writer Colin Meloy and illustrator extraordinaire Carson Ellis sporting homemade Blazer gear! Carson knitted that hat. It says "Rip City". Watch for my more detailed write-up about our trip to this game in the upcoming print edition of The Merc!
The second half saw the Warriors come back and tie the game at 99. In one particularly agonizing minute Kevin Durant, "The Slim Reaper", completed two 4 point plays in a row. It was hard to endure the loud cheering in the Moda Center for the wrong team. Fortunately our Blazers held tough and so did the Blazer fans. ESPN's national TV commentators mentioned on several occasions how difficult it is for visiting teams to win in the Moda Center because of the raucous crowds. Trailblazer Legend Bill Walton was in the house for ESPN, a nice touch.
The game went right down to the final seconds. With 9 seconds left Kevin Durant had a key 3-point shot waived off because his heel touched the out-of-bounds line. Here's a pic of that crucial play. You can see the Blazers bench and staff all pointing to the sideline where Durant stepped out:
The Blazers calmly hit all of their final free throws to ice the game. It was a huge win for 6th place Portland, who needed a jolt heading into the week-long All Star break. Sure, Warriors fans will write this one off, suggesting their team was checked-out and focused on the long game, but a win against the champs is a feather in our cap they can't take away. The rest of the league is on notice. Don't take the Blazers lightly!
And now I will leave you with two interesting images. First, here is Blazers third string center Meyers Leonard walking into the game in a sweet Valentines Day faux fur coat:
And here is Colin Meloy with the legendary Bill Walton, after the game. I asked Bill if he liked The Decemberists and he said, "Never herd of 'em." Colin explained humbly, "It's a Portland band." Again, watch for my write up of our full game experience in an upcoming print edition of the Mercury!