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Warriors bury Blazers with treys, win opener

By Reuters - May 15,2019 - Last updated at May 15,2019

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green shoots the basketball against Portland Trail Blazers centre Enes Kanter during their Western conference finals of the 2019 NBA play-offs in Oakland, California, on Tuesday (Reuters photo by Kyle Terada)

OAKLAND, California — The Golden State Warriors are so used to playing in the Western Conference finals, they were in no hurry to do it for a fifth consecutive year Tuesday night.

Then once they took the floor, they put that rest to good use against a weary opponent in Game 1.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson dominated their highly anticipated matchup with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, combining for 12 3-pointers and 62 points in the Warriors’ 116-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the opener of the Western finals.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday night, also on top-seeded Golden State’s home court.

Curry finished with a game-high 36 points and Thompson added 26 for the Warriors, who won a second consecutive game without star forward Kevin Durant, out due to a bruised right calf.

Curry shot 9-for-15 on 3-point attempts and Thompson 3-for-9. Even backup Quinn Cook got into the long-range act, mixing in two timely treys to quell the Trail Blazers’ last threat, pushing Golden State a game up on an opponent it dominated 4-1 and 4-0 in the 2016 and 2017 playoffs, respectively.

“That was very poor [defensive] execution,” Lillard said. “They were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots. That’s the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team.”

Lillard, an Oakland native who arrived at the arena wearing an Athletics “0” jersey with his name on the back, shot just 4-for-12 en route to a team-high 19 points. McCollum added 17 points for the Trail Blazers, who were facing a fresh team that had enjoyed three days off after eliminating the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on the road Friday night.

“They had to go to a tough Game 7 in Denver [on Sunday] and a quick turnaround, so the schedule favoured us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I thought we took advantage of the situation.”

The Warriors used a 13-5 burst to open the second half to extend a nine-point halftime advantage to 67-50. Curry had three 3-pointers in the run.

But Portland, which flew straight to Oakland after their Sunday win, refused to quit. Rodney Hood and Seth Curry drilled 3-pointers in an 11-4 run that ended the period and gave the Trail Blazers hope at 77-71 entering the fourth.

The Warriors’ lead was just 79-73 before Cook hit his two 3-pointers, helping Golden State go back up by 14 with 7:31 to go, and the 3-point discrepancy proved too much for the Trail Blazers to overcome.

“I thought the key stretch for us was the first five minutes of the fourth quarter,” Kerr said. “Our bench came in, did a fantastic job getting the lead back up to about 12 or so before we went back to our starters. So great job by our bench.”

Draymond Green complemented Curry and Thompson with a team-high 10 rebounds to go with 12 points for the Warriors, who shot 50 per cent from the field and 51.5 per cent (17-for-33) on 3-pointers.

The Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 51-21 on 3-pointers.

“It’s fun when everyone’s running around, cutting, and we’re whipping the ball around,” Curry said. “That’s when we’re at our best.”

Hood and Maurice Harkless had 17 points apiece, and Enes Kanter a game-high 16 rebounds with 10 points for the Trail Blazers, who were limited to 36.1 per cent shooting overall and 25 per cent (7-for-28) on treys.

The Trail Blazers also hurt themselves with 21 turnovers.

“When you turn the ball over and you don’t shoot the ball well and don’t finish around the basketball...” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts lamented. “It was a tough night offensively.”

After having split the season series 2-2, the teams played on mostly even terms for the first 16 minutes, after which the Warriors managed just a two-point lead.

Consecutive hoops by reserve Jonas Jerebko, one a 3-pointer, finally got the Warriors rolling before Curry took over. He poured in 11 points in the final 5:29 of the half, helping Golden State take a 54-45 lead into the intermission.

Curry had 19 of his 36 points in the half.

“Hopefully it’s just one game,” Stotts noted. “We’ve got to play better, particularly at the offensive end. But we’ve got to be better at both ends.”

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