It was another huge win at home for the piping hot Trailblazers, this time over the reigning champs, the Golden State Warriors. Portland has now won nine games in a row, the longest active winning streak in the NBA. Shortly before tip-off players learned that Houston's 16 game streak had come to an end, which added urgency for The Warriors, who could have regained first place in the west had they won. But the Blazers were not to be denied. Ed Davis had a monster game with 15 rebounds and Lillard and McCollum combined for 58 points. It was too much for the weary Warriors, who were without star point guard Steph Curry and coming off a back-to-back game the night before. The Blazers won 125-108.
The Moda Center was rowdy and loud throughout, reflecting the intensity of the game. Late in the second quarter Kevin Durant got in an argument with a courtside fan, much to the delight of the crowd. The fan was promptly ejected, which led to a chorus of boos. I caught up with the fan in the hallway afterwards and he claimed all he said was, "Shut the F up and play." He also added that he's a season ticket holder who pays six figures for his prime seats so he didn't appreciate getting the boot. But hey, it's not every day you get to trade barbs with an NBA superstar. Here's a pic of the incident:
Afterwards Durant commented, "When you're sitting courtside you kind of think you're Teflon - you can say or do whatever - but the ref caught him. Before I could even get over there the ref said he was throwing him out of the game.''
Well, anyway, fans who didn't get thrown out of their seats certainly got their money's worth on this night. The Blazers have been playing with a heightened focus ever since their big win over the Warriors back on Valentines Day, the start of the streak. Role players like Al-Farouq Animu, Evan Turner, and Shabazz Napier have been stepping up to make big plays when opposing defenses attempt to smother Lillard or McCollum. Especially exciting has been the emergence of 7 foot rookie Zach Collins as a solid playmaker and defender.
Without Steph Curry, Golden State leaned heavily on Kevin "The Durantula" Durant, who sliced and diced the Blazers for 40 points and seemed at times unstoppable. The Blazers led by 9 at the half, but we all knew that the game was far from locked up. Here's what the fans looked like at halftime:
I asked these guys if I could take their picture they said, "Sure, everyone wants to take a picture of us. We're The Beard Guys."
There were many Warriors fans in attendance, like this stylish woman, who traveled all the way from the Bay Area for the game:
This dude rocked some Blazer style:
Same with this couple!
The second half saw the warriors creep back and even take a 6 point lead midway through the third quarter. Earlier in the season we might have seen the Blazers crumble under this pressure, but they kept things steady, forced a comeback, and carried a 5 point lead going into the fourth quarter. Dame and CJ began draining threes in the final period and the barrage was more the the shorthanded Warriors could handle. Both Dame and CJ took to giving looks at the Warriors bench after hitting big shots, letting them know this little team from Portland isn't messing around. Here's CJ rubbing it in right next to Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
As the Blazer lead reached double digits midway through the fourth quarter the jumbotron flashed shots of Warriors fans heading for the exits. This brought the raucous crowd to it's feet and the cheering lasted all the way till the final buzzer. Warriors fans will be quick to point out this win comes with an asterisk since Curry and sixth man Iguldola were sidelined. They will also point out that the Warriors still hold an 11 game lead over the 3rd place Blazers, but the Blazers have now won out the season series with the former champs 2-1, and should these two teams meet in the playoffs, a distinct possibility, things could get pretty exciting.
After the game Lillard proclaimed to ESPN, "We're the real deal." And yes, it's true, The Portland Trailblazers are now the hottest team in the whole league. Look out!
Coach Terry Stotts tried to keep a lid on the exuberance. When asked about the winning streak, he replied, ''What streak? We're just playing games. We're just trying to get wins.''
The Blazers continue this awesome home stand against the Miami Heat on Monday. This should be another good match-up, and a true test for a Blazer team looking to extend their winning streak to the lofty heights of 10. Go Rip City!