(Written for Fansided.com’s Blue Man Hoop)
On the final night of the regular season, the Warriors beat the previously 33 and 48 Portland Trailblazers 99-88, overcoming a 30 point 21 rebound effort from LaMarcus Aldridge to secure their 47th win, the sixth seed, and a first round series against the Denver Nuggets. With 5 minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Stephen Curry hit his second of four three pointers on the night, his 270th of the season, breaking the record Ray Allen set with the Seattle Supersonics in the 2005-206 season.
The Warriors began the second half with a 14-point lead, but only 16 points in the third quarter, allowing the Trailblazers to reduce the lead to 3 by the end of the quarter. Portland had kept it close through the fourth quarter, when, with 7:18 left, Klay Thompson hit an open three off an impressive no-look over-the-head pass by a driving David Lee, putting the Warriors ahead 79-73. Joel Freelend made an uncontested midrange jumper, and then Jarrett Jack turned the ball over. Portland was in position to continue giving the Warriors unexpected trouble, when Steph Curry intercepted an Eric Maynor pass and got fouled while making the fast-break layup attempt. Curry made the free throw, Portland followed with a turnover, Lee finished a layup over Meyers Leonard, and, up 84-75 with 5:41 left, the Warriors never looked back.
Why The Warriors Won
Klay Thompson: Though Thompson finished 9-19, he made 5 of his 7 attempts behind the arc, many of which silenced Blazer runs or capitalized Warriors ones. Thompson followed an impressive offensive outing against San Antonio with an effective, but dissimilar performance. The Warriors abandoned the Thompson post-ups, instead generally leaving him behind the arc. Though he was less of a creative offensive force, Klay Thompson’s contributions were vital in a second straight Warriors win.
Harrison Barnes’ Defense on Damian Lillard: In the latter half of the fourth quarter the Warriors switched Harrison Barnes onto Lillard. Though Mark Jackson has recently favored using Klay Thompson on similar positional switches, the athletic Barnes was able to effectively pressure Lillard on the ball and deny positioning to Lillard on Meyers Leonard’s screens, disrupting a Trailblazer offense that often relies on perimeter penetration from Lillard both as a primary source of scoring and to set up secondary options. Before he hit a three with 1:13 left in the effectively-over game, Lillard had not scored in the fourth quarter, largely due to Barnes’ successful pressure.
Shorthanded Trailblazers: This season, Portland’s typical starting lineup, Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Hickson-Aldridge has been outscored by 2 points per 100 possessions, 2.2 points better than the team’s actual net rating, per nba.com. Though this may seem unimpressive, the Trailblazers recent commitment to improving their draft position has decreased the statistical reputation of the lineup. Fortunately for the Warriors, the Trailblazer’s were without Batum or Matthews, two members of the starting group and the core of their perimeter defense. Against a healthy Portland team, rather than exposing the shortcomings of rookie Will Barton, Klay Thompson would have been attempting to score on Batum or Matthews, two far above average defenders.
Jarrett Jack: Though 6 for 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from the line appears to be a relatively unimportant contribution, Jack, though he has been anything but consistent in recent months, was able to stable the Warriors’ offense when Curry struggled. Though Jack has recently drawn the ire of Warriors fans for his often questionable shot selection, his contributions to begin the season were instrumental in many a Warrior victory. Jack’s ability to replicate Curry’s creating and scoring production in the pick and roll has been vital to the Warriors all year, and in a fitting end to Jarrett Jack’s nationally under-appreciated season, the sixth man’s quiet contributions, in contrast with his often explosive performances, guided the Warriors to victory.