OAKLAND –- After being smoked in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals last Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers made a couple changes for Game 2, turning the action in their favor for most of the game.
It didn’t result in a victory, as the Warriors fashioned a fabulous fourth-quarter comeback, but it gave the defending champions a few things to think about.
Welcome to the NBA postseason, where each succeeding game delivers some form of reaction to that which immediately preceded it.
The Warriors, with video study followed by a scrimmage on Tuesday, realize Game 3 on Saturday is their turn to adjust.
“Portland made some adjustments and did some things that bothered us.” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice Thursday. “So we looked at those things and talked about the things that we might do differently.”
Expect the Warriors to counter with more ball movement, more forceful player movement, sharper screens and more back cuts, beginning with the opening tipoff.
“The first five minutes is probably the most important part of the game,” guard Shaun Livingston said. “It’s about momentum. Their home court is kind of like our home court. They get loud up there, they get going hitting shots and then they’re tough. For us setting the tone, Game 3 is probably going to be everything.”
Defensively, expect more of center Festus Ezeli, who did a fantastic job defending Portland’s pick-and-roll, which had punished each of the Warriors’ first three big men. Kerr made it clear that Ezeli earned more time.
The Blazers for Game 2 made one notable change defensive assignment, sending 6-foot-9 forward Maurice Harkless to spent every second possible guarding the 6-7 Klay Thompson, who scored 37 points in Game 1 against several defenders, including Harkless.
The Blazers also were the hungrier team for much of Game 2, during which they built a 17-point lead before wilting under the Warriors’ late assault.
“We had a tremendous fourth quarter and our defense tightened up,” Kerr said. “But they took it to us for the first half for sure. They were the aggressor. They took us out of our rhythm and our flow.”
Insofar as the Warriors were able to pull out the win, they hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Moreover, they won Game 2 despite Portland’s effective adjustments.
Though Game 3 is the Warriors’ turn, they expect victory will be more difficult to come by in the noise and clamor of Moda Center in Portland.