Top takeaways from Warriors’ series-clinching overtime win over Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers needed a win to stay alive in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4. They did not get it.

A high-scoring first quarter (36-35 in favor of Golden State) set the tone for what would be an exciting night of fast-paced basketball. At halftime, the Blazers led by the score of 69-65 thanks in part to a breakout game from Meyers Leonard.

The second half featured more of the same breakneck pace, and heading into the fourth quarter, Portland held a tenuous eight-point lead. With the season on the line, the Blazers felt their nerves a bit, and at the end of regulation, the score was tied 111-111.

Overtime beckoned in the NBA playoffs for the second night in a row.

In overtime, Golden State once again showed its championship mettle, outscoring the Blazers 8-6 for the clean sweep.

Here’s a look at the top takeaways from the Warriors’ crushing victory over the Trail Blazers in Game 4.

Who are you and what did you do with Meyers Leonard?

Both teams got off to a torrid start offensively, but if not for Meyers Leonard blowing up with 14 points in the first quarter, things would have gone a lot differently. It was a really fun environment watching Leonard hitting from pretty much anywhere he wanted — minus his one embarrassing faux pas at the rim. His 25 halftime points marked a career high in any game — both as a pro and at college.

All told, he racked up 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Just an incredible breakout performance from this former No. 11 overall pick out of Illinois.

To be completely fair, Leonard didn’t completely come out of nowhere, having scored 16 points in 31 minutes a game prior. But this is a guy who averaged 5.5 points per game in the playoffs before Game 4. And the way he jumped out with a dominant performance early set the tone for the Blazers and gave them a chance.

Third-quarter Dubs? Not this time

The Warriors’ hallmark has long been their ability to absolutely blow teams away in the third quarter. Portland experienced this firsthand, having been outscored 68-37 the previous two games in this period.

Coming out of halftime, it seemed like Golden State was primed to make another big run, down by just four despite some insanely hot shooting by the Blazers. Instead, Portland came out of the locker room with incredible focus and intensity to outscore the Warriors by four points in the third and go into the final period up eight.

Steph stayed hot with legendary performance

Without Kevin Durant, and with Andre Iguodala also watching from the bench with a sore Achilles, the Warriors were extremely shorthanded in Game 4. Thankfully for Golden State, Stephen Curry continued to put up points in bunches.

Curry was unbelievably hot in the first half, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-7 from three with 25 points. Scoring wasn’t the only thing Curry was doing well on Monday night, either. He kept putting the ball into the hoop to finish with a 37-point triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Just a phenomenal overall performance by a legendary player who will one day have a place in the Hall of Fame. The only real negatives were that his legendary free-throw streak finally was snapped, and his sloppy travel with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Portland’s backcourt was phenomenal

Lillard hasn’t looked like himself in this series. Of course, separated ribs would have something to do with his sub-par performances. We knew that if Portland was going to stay alive with a win in Game 4, he’d need to figure out a way to get going, regardless.

Portland’s star point guard did just that on Monday night. Putting together his finest performance in this Western Conference Finals, he scored 28 points, dished 12 assists, hauled down four rebounds and was responsible for the most entertaining highlight of the game (and some broken ankles for one poor defender).

Backcourt teammate CJ McCollum was also effective as we’ve seen throughout the series. He scored 26 points and added seven assists. Combined with Leonard, these guards presented the Warriors with a three-headed monster all night long.

Draymond Green = X-factor

One of the more underrated players the Warriors have relied on during their current dynasty, Green rose up with a virtuoso performance in Game 4.

He did the little things all night long. He dished an incredible 11 assists en route to a gritty triple-double that included 18 points and 14 rebounds.

And then, with the game on the line late in overtime, he hit his first three-pointer of the game.

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By: Jesse Reed

25 questions heading into the second half of the NBA season

1. Should the Pelicans trade Anthony this season or this summer?

The Pelicans are in 12th place in the Western Conference, and it’s time they start thinking about trading Anthony Davis. If they deal him this season, the Lakers might be willing to part with three of their four young assets (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). The 76ers might be willing to dangle Ben Simmons, too. Heck, the Warriors could even offer Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If New Orleans waits until the summer, the Celtics will be eligible to acquire Davis (a provision in the CBA is preventing them from doing so this season without including Kyrie Irving) and could offer a package including Jaylen Brown and their war chest of valuable future draft picks. The Knicks could offer their unprotected 2019 first-round draft pick and Kevin Knox. The only downside to waiting for the summer is that if Davis demands a deal to a specific team, the Pelicans lose all their leverage. Lots to consider in the Big Easy, and none of it is all that promising.

2. What does the Lakers starting lineup look like this spring?

The best-case scenario includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A lineup with those two could win the title. The next best scenario probably involves James, Bradley Beal and whichever two youngsters remain. This lineup could hang with any team in the league but is probably an underdog in the Conference Finals and Finals. The worst-case scenario would be if they make no major moves at the deadline because their current lineup likely has a Conference Finals ceiling and it’d be malpractice to waste a year of LeBron’s prime, like when the team has a number of trade chips.

3. Which teams mortgage their futures at the deadline?

Out West, the Pelicans are sure to be in the middle of everything, as they hold the crown jewel in Anthony Davis. Yet there’s a chance the Pelicans hold onto Davis and make a big trade of their own — we know they were in the mix for Jimmy Butler earlier this year. Everyone knows that the Rockets and Lakers will be looking for deals too. The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, so keep an eye on them as well.

Out East, any of the top five teams could justify pushing their chips in and try to capitalize on the Warriors’ perceived vulnerability. Also, keep an eye out for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — they’ve straightened things out as of late and have been trying to land a blue-chipper ever since LeBron James left.

4. Does Michael Jordan deal Kemba Walker?

The conundrum of Kemba Walker: He means everything to the Hornets and wants to remain the face of the franchise, yet they can’t compete with him on their roster. He’s not quite elite enough to carry Charlotte deep into the playoffs, yet he’s too good to not carry the team to a .500 record. With no cap room (maybe you shouldn’t have maxed out Nic Batum, MJ!) and hardly any trade assets (maybe you shouldn’t have turned down four first-round picks to draft Frank Kaminsky, MJ!), Michael Jordan needs to seriously consider trading Walker for some future draft picks and/or cap relief if the Hornets ever want to quit toiling in mediocrity.

5. What do the Blazers do at the trade deadline?

The Blazers are having another solid season. They’re 25-17 and have an average offense and defense. They won’t miss the playoffs, but they probably won’t make it out of the first round if they don’t make a move at the trade deadline. Is this the year they break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? How does the passing of owner Paul Allen impact the team’s previously unwavering loyalty to its dynamic backcourt? Would the Wizards ever consider a Bradley Beal for McCollum plus an unprotected 2020 first-rounder swap?

6. Which teams should blow it up at the deadline?

A couple of teams that are teetering on the brink of falling out of playoff contention should seriously consider blowing up their rosters by trading away assets for future draft picks and high-upside prospects. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. At 17-25, no John Wall for the rest of the year and no cap space, the team should absolutely be looking to trade Otto Porter and his massive contract, Markieff Morris and his abrasive attitude and even Bradley Beal if a team like the Lakers offers multiple prospects and draft picks.

Just above Washington in the standings, the Magic, Pistons and Hornets are all fighting for the eight seed. If any of them falter, they’d be obvious “tank” candidates. In the West, everything is still congested in the standings, but the Grizzlies and Pelicans will want to listen to offers for their respective stars if they’re on the outside looking in a month from now.

7. Do the Bucks have enough to compete for a title?

When LeBron James was 24 years old, he won his first MVP and led the Cavs to a league-best 66 wins. He was so transcendent that the team didn’t think it needed to improve a roster with Mo Williams as its second-best player at the trade deadline. Everyone knows how that worked out for Cleveland — the Orlando Magic caught fire in the Conference Finals and upset the Cavs.

Milwaukee Bucks fans should be scared to death of history repeating itself with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. Giannis is also 24 years old and an MVP front-runner, and he’s leading a surprisingly good Bucks team to the top of the conference as the deadline nears. While the Bucks have better secondary options than the 2009 Cavs had, their current roster is probably another scorer and versatile forward away from being threats to win it all.

8. Are the Raptors finally a legitimate title contender?

These dinosaurs are legit. Unlike past years, they have a roster built for the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is back to being the Kawhi Leonard of old (albeit, a little better on offense and a little worse on defense). Danny Green is having his best season in years. Same goes for Serge Ibaka, whose switch to small-ball center appears to have triggered a Benjamin Button-like reverse aging in his body. Kyle Lowry is second in the league in assists, too.

And who could forget Pascal Siakam — wow, where the hell did this guy come from? In his third season, he’s made the jump from solid defensive presence off the bench to potential All-Star and two-way terror on the court. He’s always sprinting, making offensive players uncomfortable on defense and pushing the envelope on offense — just making winning plays all over the court. He’s like Toronto’s own mutated version of Draymond Green. If you haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out on the best spin move in the NBA.

9. Are the Houston Rockets still contenders?

James Harden probably answered this one at Golden State last week where he put on one of the most impressive performances of his career. His three-pointer between the outstretched hands of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the climax point of an on-going, 15-game stretch in which he’s averaging over 40 points per game. We know Harden will keep stuffing the stat sheet, but we also know that he’s prone to wear down in the playoffs if another teammate isn’t there to lighten his load. Can Chris Paul get back on track once he returns from his hamstring injury? Does Houston trade for another shot creator at the deadline?

10. Are the Nuggets a legitimate title contender?

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference has been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. Jokic is proving to be a one-man elite offense, as the Nuggets have been able to withstand significant injuries to a number of their key players, including Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Even if they sputter at some point during the second half of the season, they should finish with a top-four record in the West. The question then becomes what is their ceiling this season with a roster comprised mostly of players with little to no prior playoff experience? A safe bet is that they’ll win their first-round series and then lose a close battle in the second round to a more experienced team like the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder or Lakers. Regardless, the future is bright in Denver.

11. Have the Thunder quietly built a defensive machine to upset the Warriors?

With Paul George playing at a first team All-NBA level this season and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant playing excellent two-way basketball, the Thunder might be the team best equipped to take down the Warriors. Notice I didn’t mention Russell Westbrook? That’s because the Thunder are often winning games in spite of Westbrook. While he is taking two fewer shots per game and has recommitted himself to defense (leading the league in steals), his shooting splits and shot selection are abysmal. He’s a key reason why OKC has the worst field-goal percentage in the NBA. It’s so frustrating because this team could absolutely steal some games from the Warriors in a series (they’re 3-2 vs. Golden State since acquiring Paul George) with its defense and overwhelming athleticism. However, Westbrook has to be a much more efficient player for the Thunder to take down Goliath.

12. Can the 76ers avoid a chemistry catastrophe?

There are layers to this one. For starters, the relationship between franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, is somewhere between “working partnership” and “icy.” It’s probably closer to the latter right now after their recent rebounding collision and Embiid’s subsequent freak-out. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Jimmy Butler is apparently already comfortable dressing down head coach Brett Brown in front of teammates about his role in the offense. Some teams can excel amid chaos like this; others fall victim to it. Will the Eastern Conference’s most talented team straighten things out for a long playoff run? Or will it implode from within?

13. Do the Pacers have enough offensive firepower to win the East?

It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but the Indiana Pacers are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re currently in third place and have the NBA’s third-highest rated defense despite missing their star, Victor Oladipo, for 11 games this season. Their defense and plethora of excellent role players will keep them in every game come playoff time, but can Oladipo carry their offense enough for them to make a deep run? Look for the Pacers to add some more scoring pop at this year’s trade deadline.

14. What is the Clippers’ ceiling?

How many players do you think a casual NBA fan could name on the Clippers? Three? Four? Despite having no star power, the Clippers are 24-16 and in fourth place in the loaded Western Conference. This is no longer a cute story about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts — this team is legitimately good. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all good players and have destroyed unsuspecting opponents this season.

How good are they? Can they win a playoff series? It’ll depend on the matchup and whether they pick up a better two-guard (Avery Bradley stinks now) and rim protector (Gortat isn’t cutting it). They could probably take down any team without an MVP-caliber player in a seven-game series, so if they play the Spurs, Blazers or Jazz in the first round, they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance to advance.

15. Will Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward get back on track?

If someone told you that Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were averaging only a combined 23.6 points per game, you’d probably assume that the Celtics were having the season from hell. Fortunately for Boston, the “Marcuses” (Morris and Smart) have stepped up their respective games and covered for Brown’s and Hayward’s struggles. The team is comfortably in fifth place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and will always have a chance in any playoff series with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and the Marcuses playing well. However, if the Celtics want to compete for a title, they’ll need at least one of Brown or Hayward to start playing better. Both have shown some signs of life recently, but an occasional good game won’t suffice come May and June.

16. Do the Jazz have another magical second half in store?

Quin Snyder has been a second-half miracle worker in his tenure as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Last season, after a 17-24 start to the season, the Jazz ripped off a 31-10 record the next 41 games and rode that momentum to a first-round upset over the Thunder. At 20-21 through 41 games this season, Snyder will need to once again work his second-half magic to get Donovan Mitchell and Co. back on track.

17. How does DeMarcus Cousins fit in with the Warriors?

As they attempt to three-peat and win their fourth title in five seasons, the Warriors are struggling with mental and physical fatigue. Even when they’re at full strength, they seem as vulnerable as they’ve seemed since Kevin Durant joined the team. That could all change when DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut. Will the Warriors be rejuvenated by their “new toy” and find new ways to throttle teams? Or will Cousins’ overwhelming but unnecessary offensive talent hurt the team’s on-court chemistry? Boogie’s commitment to defense could ultimately dictate this one.

18. Can Steph Curry really go 50-45-90 again?

Remember when Steph Curry won the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2015-16 and forced us to recalibrate how basketball was going to be played moving forward? That season he averaged 30.1 points per game and joined Steve Nash as the only players to ever join the 50-45-90 Club (FG percentage-3FG percentage-FT percentage). Well, he’s doing it again this season. Right now he’s averaging 28.9 points per game on 48-44-91 shooting splits. (And he’s been in a slump lately too.) Thanks to the equally ridiculous seasons guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having, hardly anyone seems to be noticing how insanely well Curry is shooting this year.

19. Can we hand Luka Doncic the Rookie of the Year, already?

Barring injury, the answer is yes. Doncic has been a revelation in Dallas and is must-see television every time he steps on the court. He might even get voted in as an All-Star Game starter. And while he shouldn’t be an All-Star starter, nobody should have any issues with him making the team because he’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game and absolutely has a case as being one of the 12 best players in the Western Conference this season.

20. Should the Knicks even bother bringing Kristaps Porzingis back this season?

If you recall, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL just before the All-Star break last season. With a crappy roster in place and their sights set on Kevin Durant, the Knicks have been in no rush to get their young star on the court before he’s completely healthy. They are going to evaluate Porzingis in mid-February, but there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all this season.

Should he play? On one hand, it’d be nice to get him back on the court for about 10-15 games to help him get his rhythm and confidence back heading into the offseason — this is what the Pacers did with Paul George following his broken leg. On the other hand, with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they might not want Porzingis winning games for them and screwing up their lottery odds.

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By Pat Heery

Top 50 NBA Players

50. Otto Porter

This opening spot almost went to Lauri Markkanen — hey he looks like he could be the next Dirk Nowitzki — but then he hurt his elbow and put his near future up in the air. So let’s slide in Porter, who, frankly, deserves more love. He doesn’t score like a lot of the guys above him on this list, but he finished in the top 20 in VORP last year at 3.4 and was actually a 3.9 VORP player in 2017.

49. Tyreke Evans

After being named Rookie of the Year, Evans kind of disappeared into that Kings vortex that has taken everybody but DeMarcus Cousins down the last decade or so. Last season’s move to Memphis seemed to save him, as he started shooting more threes and averaged 19.4 points per game. Now he’s a Pacer, and he could serve as a fine running mate to Victor Oladipo. This is a bet on talent.

48. Brandon Ingram

All right, we may be speculating a bit, but there’s reason to believe in Ingram. He improved by leaps and bounds in his sophomore campaign, as he averaged 16.1 points per game. The Duke grad is still only 21, and he has the size and skills that made him the second overall pick. He could be in the running for Most Improved this year.

47. Goran Dragic

Dragic’s numbers dipped a bit last year, but he still had a fine season. The point guard may never have 10.3 win shares again, like he did back in the day for Phoenix, but he’s the best player on the Heat and still one of the top 50 players in the NBA.

46. Clint Capela

The Rockets gave Capela a big contract this offseason, which may have surprised some. However, if you’ve watched Houston play, you know how vital Capela can be. Though the Swiss center is a little limited on offense — he mostly dunks and lays the ball up — his .652 effective field-goal percentage led the league. He also makes an impact on defense with his size and was second in the league in blocks per game last year.

45. Jrue Holiday

DeMarcus Cousins is gone, but Anthony Davis isn’t alone in New Orleans. Holiday has become one of the best point guards in the NBA. Last year, he set a new personal best with 19.0 points per game, and he’s averaged 1.6 steals per game in his career. That puts him in the top 100 in NBA history.

44. Steven Adams

People like to say the Thunder got fleeced in the James Harden trade, but at least they got Adams out of the deal. The New Zealand center has emerged as a physical force who can contribute on both ends of the court. He actually ranked 15th in win shares last season, and he’s still only 25.

43. CJ McCollum

McCollum is the Robin to Damian Lillard’s Batman, but don’t forget that Robin is technically a superhero too. Though his career got off to a slow start, he’s averaged over 20 points per game the last three years. Also, two seasons ago he led the NBA in free-throw percentage (.912), which is fun.

42. Marc Gasol

Marc’s brother Pau would have appeared on this list for many years, but those days are gone. In truth, the younger Gasol’s time as a top 50 player is probably coming to a close soon as well. However, defense has been a calling card for Marc in his career, and he’s still 7-foot-1. Size doesn’t go away.

41. Khris Middleton

Middleton is getting close to being one of those guys whom hoop heads talk about being underrated so much that he becomes properly, and perhaps over, rated. He’s a solid shooter who just averaged over 20 points for the first time last season, but he also brings the assists, boards and steals to some degree. If the Bucks become a title contender, Middleton will be a big part of the reason why.

40. Jayson Tatum

With so much veteran talent and rising sophomore Jaylen Brown on the roster, expectations for Tatum as a rookie weren’t that high. Then the third-overall pick showed his skill, becoming a key cog in the lineup. He wasn’t a top 50 player last year, but he was close. And barring an unexpected slump, he’s deserving of that designation this season.

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Blazers Pitching To Carmelo Anthony

Written by Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.com

Until a trade sends Carmelo Anthony elsewhere, C.J. McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers are not giving up attempts to bring the All-Star forward to the Pacific Northwest.

The Blazers reportedly were contacted by the Knicks and Rockets to facilitate an Anthony trade to Houston, but have no interest in seeing him play elsewhere in the Western Conference, instead looking for deal to land him in Portland. Despite a McCollum Instagram post wooing Anthony, he reportedly is not interested in playing for Portland.

On Wednesday, a report from Joe Freeman of The Oregonian noted that McCollum and Damian Lillard have continued their efforts, personally reaching out to Anthony.

McCollum also said on Sirius XM Radio that the Blazers would be among the West’s top three teams with Anthony.

 

 


Not only is Anthony reportedly not interested in Portland, according to another report the 10-time All-Star has his sights set on Houston after rejecting the Knicks’ latest pitch.

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Blazers Dominate Cavs, Cavs Think They Need More Practice

Written by Eric Griffith at Blazers Edge.com

The Portland Trail Blazers picked up their biggest win of the season tonight at the snow-covered Moda Center, defeating the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers 102-86. Allen Crabbe scored 18 of his 24 in the first half to help the Blazers build an early lead, and then CJ McCollum salted the game away by scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half.

While McCollum and Crabbe thrived on offense, the Blazers defense also excelled against one of the most potent teams in the NBA. The Blazers held the Cavs to just 86 points on a putrid 34.1 percent shooting – both season lows for a Portland opponent. Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, andKevin Love combined to shoot just 14-for-43 (32.5 percent). James did manage a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“I’m really proud of our guys and how they competed. Defensively it was one of our best games and to do it against a team like Cleveland makes it even better,” said Head Coach Terry Stotts.

The Blazers led nearly the entire way, but Crabbe sparked the Blazers to their first big lead of the night when he hit his first shot with 4:30 to go in the first quarter to cut a three point Cavaliers lead down to one, 18-17.

Over the next 12 minutes, Crabbe would score another 16 points, including four 3-pointers, sparking a 30-12 Blazers run. A Crabbe triple with 4:43 left in the second would give the Blazers a 45-30 advantage – they never relinquished the lead the rest of the way.

Crabbe’s torrid first half was par for the course over the last several weeks. After a rough start to the season, Crabbe has been on a shooting spree hot enough to thaw out the entire Portland metro area – he has shot over 50 percent on 3-pointers since the start of December, and has 24 or more points in three of the last four games.

“I’m just staying aggressive. Teammates are finding me, I’m knocking down shots, moving well without the ball,” said Crabbe in a post-game interview with CSN’s Brooke Olzendam. “We’re doing a good job – our offense is really clicking right now. With the defense being the way it is, our offense is really clicking.”

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