Green’s defense helps Warriors stymie Portland in 121-109 win
OAKLAND, California — While fans everywhere marveled at the shot-blocking prowess of defensive star Draymond Green, it was the guard play of Warrior bench player Ian Clark to start the fourth quarter that provided the offensive spark in the 121-109 Golden State win over the Portland Trailblazers in game 1 of the first-round Western Conference game.
Clark, the unsung hero, won’t get the headline credit that the big names like Curry, Durant and Green will for this one.
But Warrior Coach Steve Kerr acknowledged the importance of that lineup that opened the fourth quarter.
“It made perfect sense to go to Draymond to start the fourth, and he and David West, I thought anchored our defense really well,” said Kerr. “Klay (Thomson) did a good job. Ian Clark made some big plays. It was a good group.”
What the group provided after Clark’s offensive spark, was a defensive approach to stymie the Trailblazers who had the game tied 88-88 after the third quarter.
“We just wanted to be more aggressive,” said Kerr. “I thought we did a better job in the second half of being a little more physical with our help side (and the) defense improved as well.”
With key blocked shots and play worthy of a “Defensive Player of the Year” award, Green almost single-handedly demoralized the hot Portland backcourt that combined for 75 points.
Portland’s offense, anchored by its guards, C.J Mc Collum’s 41 points (16-28, 4-6 from three), and Damian Lillard’s 34 points, (12-26, 3-9 from three), at times seemed unstoppable.
At the end of the half with the scored tied at 56, the pair had 48 of all of the Trailblazers points.
The Warriors’ top scorers, Kevin Durant (32 points, 12-20 from the field, 10 rebounds), and Stephen Curry (29 points, 9-19, 3-8 from 3) helped Golden State keep pace.
But the winning margin was provided with that burst in the fourth quarter powered by Clark.
With Curry resting on the bench, Clark keyed a 15-2 Warrior run to start the final period, break the tie and push the Golden State lead to 13 points.
Playing just 12 minutes, Clark was 4-5 from the field, 2-2 from three for 12 points. He scored seven of his points during that fourth quarter run.
With the offensive cushion provided, it was up to Green and the defense to shut the door.
After a monster block on Portland’s Noah Vonleh’s bid at a breakaway drive at the end of the third that had fans gasping, Green had another block in the fourth on Damian Lillard.
The Portland guard drove down the key for what looked to be an easy two, but Green (19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) protected the rim, got all ball, and left the driving Lillard face down on the floor.
Off that block, the Warriors raced back to the other end with a two-point score from Durant to make it 109-99 with 4:39 left. The Warriors stretched the lead to 113-99 with 3:30 to go on another jumper from Durant.
By then, it was clear, the Trailblazers’ dynamic back court couldn’t do it alone. They had no answers for the Warriors overall team play on both offense and defense.
Portland played without its big man from Bosnia, Jusuf Nurkic. He missed the last seven games of the season with a nondisplaced fracture in his left leg, but reportedly may return in this series.
Portland has now lost 11 of its last 12 including the playoffs to the Warriors. The two teams played last year in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Game 2 will once again be played in Oakland on Wednesday night.
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