The Warriors in the third quarter live on.
For 24 minutes, we saw why the Golden State Warriors have had perhaps the most frustrating season in the NBA. By the time you turned on the TV, they were already down 8-2 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The execution wasn’t there, but more worryingly, neither was the effort. They were repeatedly beaten down the court in transition, even after making baskets. They were eliminated on the glass and for loose balls. They settled for stepback threes while the Blazers attacked the rim relentlessly.
Led by Damian Lillard, who was playing some of the best basketball of his career, the Blazers put together an 18-4 run in the first quarter, pushed the lead to 17, before settling into a tidy 41-27 lead as the teams went to second . quarter.
And in the second quarter there was more of the same. The Warriors stayed flatter than Kyrie Irving’s interpretation of the earth, and the energetic Blazers pushed the lead to 23. A mini-run by the Warriors to end the half was just enough to pull them to within 17 points at halftime.
Maybe it’s just not their yearyou thought already dreading it as you pitched your second half beer.
And then for 24 minutes, we saw why the Warriors are still in win-now mode. Why they haven’t given up on winning this season. Why other teams still fear them.
After a few sloppy possessions, in the third quarter the Warriors — even without Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins — announced their arrival. Jordan Poole pitched, doing all the things that got the Warriors to give him a contract well into the nine figures this offseason. Klay Thompson picked Portland’s defense apart, reminding you why the Dubs gave him nearly $200 million knowing he had to recover from a torn ACL first.
Newfound offensive aggression led to Lillard picking up three fouls in just a few possessions, giving him four for the game. The defense sensed Portland’s panic and clamped down. They went on an 18-2 run. Jonathan Kuminga lit the arena on fire.
And then, finally and fittingly on a Thompson three, the Dubs found the lead.
The game felt over. You could tell by the Warriors’ body language that they knew they were going to win. You could tell by the Blazers’ faces that they knew the same thing.
It didn’t take long into the fourth quarter for the Dubs to stretch their lead to double digits, eventually settling for a 123-105 victory that moved them out of the play-in tournament and into the sixth seed in the West.
Poole finished with 29 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, while Klay added 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Donte DiVincenzo dropped in 21 points on just 11 shots, and Draymond Green contributed 12 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and elite defense.
From down 23 to up 18. What a win.