A different path, but the same result. Thursday’s Game 2 thriller was far more dramatic than the Dubs’ series opening win, but they both count the same and the bottom line is the Dubs are heading to Portland accompanied by a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals. As you wait for Game 3 on Saturday evening, check out five takeaways from the exhilarating Game 2 matchup on Warriors Ground.
Draymond’s Complete Game
Simply put, Draymond Green was everywhere. He started the game as a man on a mission, and he finished it in similar fashion. He had three of the Dubs’ first four field goals and had four blocks in the first quarter. He picked up his fifth foul with 7:42 left in the game, but that didn’t take his away his aggression. During the team’s game-ending 14-3 run, he challenged shots on one end while creating them on the other, scoring or assisting on the team’s final five buckets.
Green finished the game with 16 points (8-for-12 FGs), 10 rebounds, seven assists and a 2019 postseason-high five blocks. Green tends to pick up his play when the lights are brightest, and that has been especially true this postseason. He has pulled down at least 10 rebounds in a playoff career-best seven straight games and his playoff averages in points (12.8 ppg, +5.4), rebounds (9.4 rpg, +2.1), assists (7.7 apg, +0.8) and blocks (1.7, +0.6) are all considerably up from his regular season production.
“He’s a fantastic two-way player and a guy who has just been irreplaceable around here for a long time,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said after the game.
Bell Comes Through
The Warriors have gone back to a Strength in Numbers approach since Kevin Durant was sidelined with a calf injury in Game 5 of the Dubs’ previous series against the Rockets. Since then, it seems that the Dubs’ reserves have been taking turns impacting the game. On Thursday, Jordan Bell was the one to step up. He played just 14 minutes and certainly made the most of his time on the floor with 11 points, three rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block.
But it wasn’t just the numbers he put up, it was the energy he brought that truly impacted the game. During the Warriors’ third quarter comeback – they trailed by as many as 17 points in the period – Bell deflected a pass from Portland’s CJ McCollum. The Dubs came away with the steal, and Stephen Curry assisted a Klay Thompson transition 3-pointer that put the Dubs ahead for the first time since the first quarter. About two minutes later, Bell harassed Damian Lillard into a turnover, and the Warriors’ forward finished the possession with an assist on an Alfonzo McKinnie 3-pointer that gave the Dubs’ a five-point lead, matching their largest of the game.
That Bell came through at a crucial time in an important game had to feel pretty good for the forward who had seen inconsistent playing time during the regular season and over the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I think he’s evolved mostly mentally … His professionalism,” Green said of Bell. “It’s the staying ready, being in the gym nonstop, even when you’re not playing for 10 games straight, staying in the gym, being there early and getting the work in. That’s what’s paying off for him now.”
Dubs on Defense
Andre Iguodala’s game-winning strip of Lillard provided a fitting ending to an exciting game. Fitting in that the Dubs’ defense certainly was on point in the second half after allowing Portland to put up 65 points over the first two quarters. Over the third and fourth quarters, the Warriors held the Trail Blazers to 38.5 percent shooting, forcing misses on eight of their last nine shots.
The bulk of Portland’s offense runs through Lillard and McCollum. The duo has combined for more than 52 points per game this postseason, and the Dubs have held them well below that in each of these first two games, totaling 81 points on 70 shots in the series so far.
“He’s an incredible defender because he’s got the whole package between the athleticism, the length, but most importantly, the brain,” Kerr said, referring to Iguodala’s defensive stand at the end. “He just understands his opponent. He understands the spots where the opponent is trying to get to, and quick hands to get a steal like he did on that last play. It was an amazing play against one of the best players in the league.”
This Brother vs. Brother Matchup is Pretty Interesting
The general public isn’t alone in their fascination of this Curry battle in the Western Conference Finals – the participants themselves are into it as well. As thousands of news outlets have reported, Stephen Curry facing his younger brother Seth marks the first time siblings have ever faced each other in a conference finals series. (Coincidentally enough, it would be happening in the Eastern Conference as well if Milwaukee’s Pau Gasol wasn’t injured – his brother, Marc Gasol, plays for Toronto).
Both Stephen Curry and Seth Curry had big games on Thursday. In fact, their 53 combined points was the second highest combined total by brothers in a playoff game in NBA history – the Knicks’ Bernard King (40) and his brother Albert King (17) of the Nets combined for 57 as opponents in the 1983 NBA Playoffs. The Warriors’ Curry had his third straight 30-point game, leading the Dubs’ with 37 points and eight assists. One of the few blemishes on Stephen’s game was six turnovers, three of which were steals by Seth and a traveling violation that was partially caused by the younger brother’s defense.
Seth Curry had the best plus-minus rating in the game (+13), and his 16 points went a long way in Portland almost winning this one. Of Seth Curry’s four 3-pointers, two came while being defended by his brother, and another came when defended by his college teammate Quinn Cook. Two of Seth’s three fourth quarter treys gave Portland the lead, the last being the Trail Blazers’ last basket over the final four minutes of the game. But in the end, the big brother came out on top in Game 2.
“This was like the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had playing against him,” Stephen Curry said. “You know, every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest. Made three big shots the fourth quarter that were very timely and for my parents, I know we talked about the whole series, and these last two games, it’s probably nerve-wracking as heck for them, but it worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won (laughter).”
A Warriors Knack for Comebacks
Seth Curry’s first 3-pointer of the game on Thursday put the Dubs down by 17 points, marking the Warriors’ largest deficit of the game. The Warriors erased that deficit in the third period behind the work of the Splash Brothers. Stephen Curry scored the team’s first points of the half and Klay Thompson made all three of his 3-point attempts, scoring 13 of his 24 points in the period.
The Dubs were unable to push the pace over the two first quarters, but that all changed after halftime. Five Portland turnovers translated to 13 points for the Warriors in the third quarter. In addition, the Dubs had 11 fast break points and 12 second chance points in the period, while Portland didn’t get a single basket of that variety.
Coming back from large deficits is not unusual for the Dubs. They’ve overcome deficits of 17 points or more on six occasions over the last five postseasons, including now three times against Portland.
Two wins down, two to go to reach the NBA Finals for a fifth straight season. Now the Warriors are off to Portland, where they look to continue their NBA record streak of 21 consecutive postseason series with at least one road victory.