Durant questionable as Warriors aim for sweep of Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. — For the Portland Trail Blazers, it is about pride, about extending the series, avoiding a four-game sweep.
For the Golden State Warriors, the goal is to polish off the Trail Blazers, complete the sweep and afford themselves some rest in getting ready for the next series in the Western Conference playoffs.
That sets the scene for Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night, with Golden State holding a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series.
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The Warriors have gone the entire series without injured reserves Shaun Livingston (finger) and Matt Barnes (ankle), and they beat Portland 119-113 in Game 3 on Saturday without star forward Kevin Durant, who is nursing a strained calf muscle. They also were missing coach Steve Kerr, who stayed at his Portland hotel due to an unspecified illness that will cause him to miss at least the rest of the series.
In his stead for Game 3 was Mike Brown, the lead assistant who previously was head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors operated seamlessly with Brown in charge Saturday night.
“The culture here, the foundation Steve has laid, the players are smart, the coaches I have around me — that all puts you at ease,” Brown said Sunday. “It turns into a real fluid situation. Everybody made it rather easy for me to make the adjustment.”
Durant remains questionable for Game 4.
Golden State got another great performance Saturday from reserve center JaVale McGee, who scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes. McGee has made 16 of 19 shots in the series and is averaging 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in just 13 minutes a game.
“For a guy who is 7 feet, he’s pretty active on the floor,” Brown said. “In a pick-and-roll situation, he’s up the floor, chasing the ball to the rim and trying to block (the shot) or get the rebound. He expends a lot of energy with how hard he plays. He’s a five- to six-minute guy. You get him some rest and throw him back out there.”
Shooting guard Klay Thompson finally got going after 2 1/2 games of cold shooting, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter Saturday night as the Warriors rallied from a 16-point deficit with a 19-1 run. Thompson, who made only 3 of 11 shots in the first half, was 7 of 10 after intermission.
“Shooters go through droughts,” he said. “You can’t let it affect you — especially when you’re up 2-0. I’ve been in this league too long. Even if I shoot 20 percent, the next one’s going in. You have to have that mindset. You can’t get down on yourself, no matter what.”
No NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, making it a tall task for the Trail Blazers, “especially against a team like Golden State,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said.
“It’s never been done, but I’m not one to quit, and I’m very optimistic,” said Lillard, who has averaged 25.7 points in the series, recording a pair of 30-point-plus games. “You feel that frustration in letting (Game 3) slip. We blew the opportunity, but we still have games to play.
“With a sweep on the line, we’ve got to have some pride and try to go get this next one, and then go from there, one at a time.”
Coach Terry Stotts said his players are resolute that the season won’t end Monday night.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to win Game 4,” Stotts said. “It’s about pride and all the cliches you want to talk about. It’s about wanting to get back on that plane and play Game 5 (in Oakland). Our guys have shown throughout this season and in past seasons that they’re up to that challenge and relish it.”
The Blazers will have to do it without center Jusuf Nurkic, who started Game 3 after missing the previous nine games with a non-displaced fracture of his right leg. Nurkic, who played 17 minutes Saturday night, has been ruled out of Game 4.
“He didn’t do any further damage, (but) there was soreness, tenderness,” Stotts said. “It wouldn’t be wise to have him play through that.”