The Warriors wasted no time jumping out to a huge lead in Game 4 on Monday night and made quick work of the Trail Blazers, sweeping their first round series in four games. Golden State accomplished the third four-game sweep in franchise history in dominant fashion, defeating Portland by an average of 18.0 points per game. They advance to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they’ll await the winner of the ongoing series between the Clippers and Jazz. But before we move forward, let’s recount some of the lessons learned from the Warriors’ performance in the opening round:
Steph Gonna Steph
Let’s start with what’s freshest in our minds. Golden State blew Game 4 open with a stellar team shooting display in the first quarter, and the reigning two-time MVP was at the very center of it. He recorded 12 points, four rebounds and five assists within the opening frame, then closed out the ensuing two quarters with dagger three-pointers that sucked the life out of the building. He accounted for 37 points before sitting out the entirety of the fourth quarter, becoming just the second player in NBA playoff history to score that many points in 30 minutes or less. Over the course of the series, he averaged 29.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 42.2 percent from three-point range.
Don’t Try Draymond Green
As potent as Curry was on the offensive end, so too was Draymond Green defensively. Time and time again the Trail Blazers challenged Green at the rim, and time and time again they were sent away wanting. Over the course of the four games, Green compiled an astonishing total of 17 blocks – that’s more than any of the Pacers, Hawks, Celtics, Grizzlies, Clippers and Jazz collected as a team through the first four games of their respective playoff series. Green’s phenomenal defense didn’t come at the expense of his impact in other areas, as he also averaged 13.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. Entering this postseason, there had been only five instances in NBA playoff history in which a player recorded at least eight rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and two steals in a game. Green accomplished the feat not once, but twice in the four games against Portland.
If at the start of the season, someone said Stephen Curry and Draymond Green would play starring roles for the Warriors in a playoff sweep, it’s not as if they would have been taking a huge leap. Picking JaVale McGee for the same designation, however, would have seemed far less obvious. That didn’t stop McGee from having a huge impact on the series against the Blazers, despite being featured in limited spurts. He averaged 28.9 points, 12.6 boards and 6.7 blocks per 36 minutes of play, in addition to being a team-best plus-35.6 in those minutes. In fact, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers by an average of 42.2 points per 100 possessions in which McGee was on the court. He made 18 of his 23 field goal attempts (.783) in the series, while limiting Portland to just 23.5 percent shooting at the rim, the best mark of any player in the playoffs that has defended at least 10 shots within five feet of the basket. If he continues that kind of two-way production, it will make it tough to keep him off the court.
McGee wasn’t the only Warriors’ reserve to make a considerable contribution in their first round series. Staying at the center position, David West shot 61.1 percent the field, and along with McGee and starting center Zaza Pachulia, Golden State’s towering trio combined for 22.6 points per contest. In the backcourt, it was a similar story. Ian Clark continued his personal hot streak against the Blazers, shooting 45.8 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from three-point land and 90.9 percent from the free throw line in the series. And then there’s 21-year-old rookie Patrick McCaw, who performed well beyond his years. The Warriors’ second round pick was forced into the starting lineup for Games 2 and 3, and averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in those contests while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. The stage never seemed too bright for McCaw and that’s a tremendous sign, as the lights should only get brighter from here on out.
Kevin Durant missed two games, Shaun Livingston was out three and Matt Barnes didn’t play at all in the series. Plus Coach Kerr’s illness kept him from manning the sidelines during the team’s most recent two games in Portland. Still, the undermanned Dubs were able to sweep a team that won 17 of its last 22 games heading into the postseason.
Fortunately, the Dubs are an experienced bunch, and that includes acting Head Coach Mike Brown, who performed admirably in place of Kerr. Brown has 563 regular season and 83 playoff games to his head coaching resume, and that experience was one of the main reasons he was an attractive candidate for the staff in the first place. Brown may be in his first season with Golden State, but the former NBA Coach of the Year has seen just about everything there is to see in the league, and that should serve both him and the Warriors well for however long Kerr is out.