Portland Trail Blazers: 3 Takeaways From Game 4 Loss To Warriors

The Portland Trail Blazers are eliminated from the playoffs. What are some takeaways from their final game of the season?

The Portland Trail Blazers‘ 2016-17 campaign has come to an end. The Blazers lost Game 4 of their first-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors 128-103 and have been eliminated from the playoffs in a four-game sweep.

The game was a rout from the outset. The Warriors jumped out to a 14-0 lead, eventually finishing the first quarter ahead 45-22. Those 45 points tied an NBA playoff record for most ever in a quarter. The Blazers never led in the game.

Here are some takeaways from the final game of the series, as the Blazers’ organization prepares for what should be an eventful summer.

Jusuf Nurkic Is Not Back

The declaration of Jusuf Nurkic‘s return in the previous takeaways article seems to have been premature.

Excitement was in the air when Nurkic was tabbed to start in Game 3. Nurkic missed nine games with a right leg fibular fracture, but was set to return and hope to make a difference.

In 17 minutes, Nurkic came up with 11 rebounds and four assists, but only two points. Even in his limited play in Game 3, Nurkic was still able to log a team-high plus/minus of plus-8.

Though he gave it his best, it appeared he still wasn’t 100 percent. As a result, head coach Terry Stotts announced on Sunday he would sit him for Monday’s Game 4.

Apr 22, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) watches his team play from the bench against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The decision makes sense. Jusuf Nurkic is primed to be a major part of the Blazers’ future. Forcing him into a playoff series where the team has long odds of advancing could jeopardize his recovery and set the team back in the long run.

But Nurkic was sorely missed in Game 4. The Blazers’ defense was stretched thin without him. The Warriors could attack the paint without fear of an imposing big man waiting for them. This forced the Blazers to cover potential drives and outside shots, unable to do either well.

But with the season over, Nurkic can now focus on getting healthy in preparation for 2017-18. There will certainly be high expectations for what he’ll be able to do next year.

Warriors’ Start Was Too Hot For Blazers To Handle

The Golden State Warriors came into Monday night seeking to close out the Trail Blazers in four games. This would ensure themselves as much rest as possible ahead of a series against the Utah Jazz or Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors set the tone early. Extensive ball movement, a high-octane tempo and relentless defense put Golden State up by as many as 28 points late in the first quarter.

The Blazers surely wanted to come out with maximum effort and intensity. But they just weren’t ready for Golden State’s opening onslaught.

At the beginning of the quarter, there were a number of defensive mistakes. These included going under screens against good shooters, being left flat-footed against drives to the bucket and allowing cutters to shrug them off and run to the basket.

As the quarter progressed, the Blazers got better at contesting shots. However, the Warriors were in too much of a rhythm for their outstretched hands to matter.

Two JaVale McGee alley-oops punctuated the record-tying quarter. Those lobs have given Portland immense trouble throughout the series with Nurkic sidelined.

Portland was only outscored by Golden State 83-81 over the last three quarters. But the first quarter set such a tone for the entire game: The Warriors were ready to go back to Oakland without them.

Damian Lillard Didn’t Go Down Without A Fight

While the Blazers suffered a demoralizing loss, you can rest assured the team leader did what he could to keep things from getting worse. Damian Lillard finished the night with 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting. He also added six assists to his ledger.

Lillard had extensive playing time in Game 4. Terry Stotts left him in the game for the first 41:48 before sitting him down midway through the fourth quarter to a standing ovation.

Lillard stated postgame that he didn’t know he was going to play as long as he did. But he knew he would play as hard as he could as long as he was in the game.

“I wasn’t going to go out there and just lay down because of the way the game started. I was going to compete until I wasn’t on the floor no more. Coach left me in and I gave it what I had. They just had the better team. They had the better night”.

C.J. McCollum couldn’t get anything going, finishing with six points on 2-for-12 shooting. This included going 0-for-4 from three.

Instead, it was Al-Farouq Aminu picking up the slack. He outdid his 14 points in Game 3 by going for 25 in Game 4. Aminu went 7-for-12 from the field and 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. That was his second-highest scoring output of the season.

His highest was 26 points on Feb. 9 against the Boston Celtics. Aminu added seven rebounds and two steals in the losing effort.

Shabazz Napier also put in a big effort in Game 4. McCollum’s struggles and the large deficit allowed Napier to see 16:57 of game time, his most playing time of the series. He finished with 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

Napier went 3-for-7 from three, but struggled inside the arc. He only made one two-point field goal and had two layup attempts blocked.

The Portland Trail Blazers end the 2016-17 season on a sour note with Monday’s big loss. However, another important season begins: the offseason.

With three first-round draft picks and a young roster with a lot of potential, there is plenty for Blazer fans to be optimistic about heading into the summer.

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