The Golden State Warriors beating the Portland Trail Blazers in five games to make it to the conference finals doesn’t mean it was easy.
Stephen Curry took over late in both games 4 & 5 to show the Warriors really missed him. Lillard willed the Blazers forward, but shot just 16-for-54 from the field in the final two games. When it was all said done, once again, the Warriors were just too good on defense and offense, while having too many players the Blazers couldn’t match up with. Curry coming back simply gives some of them the opportunity to do less on offense, even if it doesn’t mean they can’t when there’s a need for it.
For a fleeting moment, the Warriors made it look like Stephen Curry is simply getting in the way. It was during their game 4 performance against the Houston Rockets in the first round series. After a close, excellent first half, playing without Curry seemed a lot simpler all of a sudden, an eruption occurred as the Warriors scored over 40 points in the following quarter to win the game. They didn’t have a problem in game 5, finishing the series, and in game 1 of their series with Portland.
But the last two games showed just what Curry means to them. His overtime performance is one of the most impressive moments of individual dominance in NBA playoff history. Portland aren’t Houston. They’re not a team that backs down. They have a lot more heart, a much better coach, and chemistry that made them a much more difficult outing for the Warriors. But Curry was there with a big three at the end, Klay Thompson has been fantastic in this postseason, and that’s about it.
The Blazers get praise, but you can’t go buy groceries with praise, as the saying goes, more or less. Damian Lillard trying to win the game on his own is fine in the regular season, and Portland players don’t seem to mind working hard to put him in that position. But against the Warriors, in the conference semifinals, the Blazers need more. Teams in general need more, maybe more than anyone has against a truly historic team, unless you believe what Charles Barkley and Tracy McGrady are saying about the NBA being terrible at the moment.
Historical arguments set aside, the Warriors move on to the conference finals with two losses behind them, and two very different series. Houston couldn’t wait for the season to end. Portland, except for the first game, made things difficult on the Warriors, and when the Spurs or Thunder finish trading blows, one of them will actually look at the tape and try to find out what it is that made the Warriors struggle, besides Curry not playing. Maybe with a deeper roster and better players, they can do more than just come close.