It didn’t start out too grand for the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors Saturday night. Playing in front of a boisterous home crowd, the Portland Trail Blazers took a 13-point lead into the half.
But as has been the case numerous times, Golden State packed a major punch in the third quarter. Led by the amazing play of Draymond Green, the Warriors outscored Portland 29-13 in the third quarter.
They continued to dominate in the final stanza with Damian Lillard struggling on the other side. In the end, Golden State came on top by the score of 110-99. Here are the biggest winners and losers from a game that saw the Warriors take a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Winner: Meyers Leonard
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts made the interesting decision to start Leonard over Enes Kanter in Game 3. Leonard, who has been inactive for five games during the playoffs, responded big time. He scored a team high 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half.
Leonard might have finished the game with only 16 points, but it was the secondary scoring that the Blazers needed Saturday evening. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough.
Loser: Damian Lillard
Portland’s All-Star point guard really doesn’t have it right now. He connected on just 5-of-18 shots Saturday night, turning the ball over five times. Through three games, Lillard has one more made field goal than turnover. That’s just absurd.
We’re now at the point to conclude that Lillard just isn’t a big-game provider. Sure Round 1 against the Thunder changed the optics a bit. But as the playoffs continue, he continues to squander every opportunity. Game 3 was a prime example of this.
Winner: Draymond Green
Knowing full well that he needed to be more aggressive on offense with Durant injured, Green came to play big time in Portland Saturday night. He was aggressively driving to the line in the opening two quarters, going for 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Playing elite-level defense and running things on the other end, Green was the best player on the court for either team. It wasn’t terribly close. He ended the evening with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals. What an otherworldly performance here.
Loser: C.J. McCollum
Once again, Portland’s star-studded back court came up small against the Warriors. While most of the focus has been on Lillard’s struggles, McCollum didn’t do himself many favors on either end of the court.
Offensively, he shot just 7-of-20 from the field. That included 2-of-10 from distance. Defensively, McCollumn continued to struggle with switches against the Splash Brothers. It enabled Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to combine for 55 points.
Winner: Terry Stotts
We have to give Stotts credit for moving Leonard into the starting lineup. He should also be praised for the rotations throughout the game. When Curry and Green were out in the first half, Stotts did not respond by sitting both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Instead, he kept Portland in the driver’s seat heading into the half.
The Blazers’ lack of hustle going back on defense plagued this team throughout the final two quarters. While some will blame Stotts, that’s on the players.
Loser: Blazers role players
Whether it was Seth Curry, Rodney Hood, Al-Farouq Aminu or Mo Harkless, several members of the Blazers had themselves horrible games. These four combined for 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
Sure we’re going to blame Lillard and McCollum for the loss. Even then, it’s unacceptable for a deeper Blazers team to get outperformed up and down the roster. It’s that simple.
Winner: Stephen Curry
Who else? Once again, Curry was absolutely dominating in the absense of Durant. For the fourth consecutive game, he was in MVP form. Curry ended Saturday evening with 36 points, six rebounds and three assists.
His movement off the ball also set up multiple easy shots for Warriors bigs inside. That’s an underrated aspect of Curry’s game, and it proved large Saturday night. Curry is now averaging 35.8 points in the four games since Durant went down to injury.