If it weren’t for the dominance of Damian Lillard, the Golden State Warriors probably would have taken a 3-0 series lead on Saturday. Klay Thompson stepped up in the absence of Stephen Curry and didn’t make it easy for the Portland Trail Blazers in a must-win Game 3.
Lillard and Thompson combined for 75 points, but Sub Zero had the advantage with a playoff-best 40, sparked by a second quarter run in which the Warriors outscored the Blazers 36-18.
Nobody responds better to adversity than Lillard, who dropped 51 on the Warriors earlier in the season after being snubbed out of another appearance in the All-Star Game. But with Portland’s backs against the wall, was there ever any doubt?
“I think we played a lot smarter down the stretch than we did the last game, and we challenged them,” Lillard said, via NBA.com. “Last game, I think, we played good and then we let up a little bit, and they turned it on—like championship teams do. … Tonight we didn't allow that to happen, we kept doing what was working for us.”
Game 4 will take place on Monday in Portland. It will be fascinating to see if the Warriors bring back Curry, who made a return in the Rockets series after the team lost Game 3 before he went down to another injury.
There’s no reason for Golden State to panic just yet, but that sense of urgency must be building.