The Warriors defeated the Blazers 119-113 on Saturday night and take a 3-0 lead in the first round series.
The Trail Blazers face elimination heading into Game 4 on Monday. Here are some takeaways from Game 3 that could help stave off the end of the season.
Jusuf Nurkic Is Back(!!)
After missing nine games, Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic returned to the court.
Head coach Terry Stotts chose to start Nurkic while keeping him on a minutes limit. Stotts intended to play him no longer than 20 minutes in order to make his transition from recovery easier.
Jusuf Nurkic wound up playing 16 minutes. He only scored once on three attempts. However, he managed to pull down 11 rebounds, dish out four assists, and block a shot.
At the outset, Nurkic’s presence was a clear plus. One play in the first quarter saw him set a screen for Damian Lillard, receive the ball as he rolled to the basket, and make a no-look kick-out to Maurice Harkless.
That pass ended up being a hockey assist, as Harkless passed it to C.J. McCollum for a score.
But as the game went on, Nurkic just seemed a step slow. Perhaps it was a case of struggling to get back into the swing of things after sitting out a while. It could have even been that he was 97 or 98 percent as opposed to 100.
Regardless, Nurkic is a welcomed presence for a team like Portland. Hopefully he’ll be able to be on the court longer and make bigger statistical contributions in Game 4.
It Was A Classic Tale Of Two Halves
The Portland Trail Blazers have been very good at bringing the energy early in games in this series. They have outscored the Warriors in the first half by an average margin of 1.3 points. They’ve also won every second quarter of this series by an average margin of 5.7 points.
But while the Trail Blazers have been a good second quarter team, the Warriors have been an even better third quarter team.
Golden State led the league in third quarter scoring margin during the regular season, beating teams on average by 5.8 points per game. This series isn’t any different. Coming out of the half, the Warriors have made their adjustments and pummeled the Blazers by a margin of 9.3 points in the third quarter.
Apr 22, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) loses the ball out of bounds against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
On Saturday night, the Warriors, after trailing 67-54 at the half, went on a tear in the third. They outscored Portland 33-21 in the quarter, including going on a 19-1 run during the frame. Golden State would also win the fourth 32-25 en route to their eventual win.
The Blazers shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half. The Warriors then held them to 36.4 percent shooting in the second.
If Portland is going to take Game 4 on Monday, chances are whatever works in the first half will have to be modified or thrown out in the second.
This Was A Loss, But It Was Also A Team Effort
Despite the loss, this was Portland’s most collectively productive game of the series. Five different Blazers found themselves in double-figures, and the team collected their highest rebounding total of the series.
The charge was led by McCollum’s 32 points, six rebounds, and two steals. He was followed by Lillard’s 31 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
22 of Lillard’s points came in the first half. Meanwhile, McCollum had a more even statline, scoring 17 in the first and 15 in the second. He even scored 10 consecutive points in the third quarter.
Apr 22, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) grimaces after falling to the floor against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
But in addition to Lillard and McCollum, there were contributions for a number of other Blazers. Evan Turner had 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and one technical foul after an altercation with David West.
Al-Farouq Aminu came off the bench and had his best game of the series. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Noah Vonleh was also a strong presence off of the bench, scoring 10 points. Six of those 10 came off of three ferociousputbackdunks.
Consequently, this team effort got Portland to within six points of a playoff win against the top-seeded Warriors. If the Blazers can put forth another team effort, including more points and minutes from Nurkic, they could find themselves in position to take Game 4.