Two questions linger above game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers: Can this series become something special, and will Stephen Curry play?
The answer is probably more clear on the second question. Curry hasn’t been on the floor since game 4 of the first round series with the Houston Rockets. He has a total of 39 minutes in two games during this postseason. It hasn’t really stopped the Warriors from advancing, going 6-2 so far in the playoffs. One loss against the Houston Rockets before blowing them away, and one loss to the Blazers (120-108 in game 3), which is the first time this season they’ve lost to the same team twice.
One thing worth reminding everyone while the Blazers try to build on their victory and the performance of Damian Lillard. The Warriors haven’t lost consecutive games this season. They are 10-0 following the previous losses, winning by 15.8 points the following game. They beat the Rockets by 27 points in game 4 of the previous series, running away with it in the second half, despite Curry injuring his knee just before the break.
But Portland aren’t Houston. They’re not a dysfunctional team that hates their star. Yes, the Blazers are also about one or two players taking the bulk of the shots while everyone works for them. But somehow, Terry Stotts has made it look appealing. Maybe it’s because Lillard actually tries on defense, and it does feel that he, and to a lesser degree C.J. McCollum, simply need to shoot as much as possible. They looked completely outmatched in the first game of the series, a bit more grounded in game 2 (but not enough), and game 3…
Two things worked extremely well for the Blazers in game 3. Lillard going off which offset the usual structure of the Warriors defense, and no one showing up besides Draymond Green and Klay Thompson on the Warriors side. Yes, these two are bonafide stars, maybe superstars without the Curry thing playing next to them. But Golden State need a little bit more. Andre Iguodala scored just one point. Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston were out of the picture offensively. Too much fell on the shoulders of Thompson and Green, and the Blazers, who besides the 40 points from Lillard got 23 from Al-Farouq Aminu and 22 by McCollum, were perfectly fine with the lack of balance on the other side.
The Blazers are probably kicking themselves for not being 2-1 up. They had a nice lead going for them in game 2 before scoring just 12 points in the fourth quarter, outscored by 22 points. They know, once again, that losing focus is fatal against the Warriors. Going shot for shot with them might work in one game out of a few, but overall, even without Curry, it seems that tactic doesn’t really work. It seems the Warriors are always one good run away from killing off a game.
And the problem with the Warriors is that their confidence is almost unshakable. Maybe until now. The Blazers seem to be doing the right things, and don’t have to worry about Curry, at least for now (and maybe in his condition, it’ll be a while before he’s MVP’ish). This isn’t the kind of series we’re wishing to see, yet. But the Blazers winning this one is going to put a lot of pressure on Golden State, maybe for the first time this season.