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SportOpinion: Trail Blazers need to get nasty vs. Warriors to avoid humiliation

21:27  16 may  2019
21:27  16 may  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

Warriors sweep Blazers to return to NBA Finals

Warriors sweep Blazers to return to NBA Finals Warriors sweep Blazers to return to NBA Finals

OAKLAND – It is time for the Portland Trail Blazers to get nasty because, hey – if not now, when?

After a sleepy start to their Western Conference finals series against the Golden State Warriors, the Blazers have a couple of options. Become serious about making the remaining games as unpleasant an experience as possible for Golden State’s offensive threats, or allow their excellent season to slip quietly into the night.

Getting nasty doesn’t mean the Blazers need to start picking fights. Portland is more about skill and speed than brute force. Putting themselves in the face of the Warriors in the same muscular manner as the Houston Rockets did in the previous round isn’t really a viable option.

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Warriors rally from 15 down at halftime, hold off Blazers Stephen Curry scored 37 points, and the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit before holding off the Portland Trail Blazers for a 114-111 win and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. CJ McCollum missed a driving jumper with 32 seconds left and Draymond Green scored on the other end for the Warriors, giving Portland one final chance with 12.3 seconds to go. Andre Iguodala then blocked a 3-point attempt by Damian Lillard on the left wing. BOX SCORE: WARRIORS 114, TRAIL BLAZERS 111 Seth Curry, Steph's little brother, put Portland ahead on a 3-pointer with 1:03 left before Kevon Looney's dunk on the other end put Golden State back on top at 112-111.

“It didn't feel like we were being the more aggressive team,” forward Moe Harkless said, reflecting on Game 1 while looking ahead to the second clash Thursday night. “We can't sit back and wait for things to happen. We have to go out there and make things happen.”

Opinion: Trail Blazers need to get nasty vs. Warriors to avoid humiliation© Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.

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What Harkless means is to stop making things easy for a group of shooters who don’t need much assistance to perform at a ludicrously high level. Stephen Curry is writing a nice narrative about having turned around his postseason, but he was helped Tuesday night by launching seven of his nine successful 3-pointers while uncontested.

Kevin Durant will not play in Game 2 against the Trail Blazers

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Curry needs defensive attention — and does Klay Thompson — if this series is to be anything other than a Warriors shooting clinic. Portland perhaps had an excuse in Game 1, coming just two nights after an exhausting Game 7 semifinal victory over the Denver Nuggets, at altitude.

Now what is needed is a defensive focus that is more in common with what you’d expect during a hotly-contested playoff run, not a typical regular-season game. For that is exactly what the other night felt like.

“We could have done a much better job,” All-Star guard Damian Lillard said. “I think people need to look at how I’m being defended. I can’t even get a shot up sometimes. Maybe just look at that. I can’t get a shot up.”

As his team’s primary offensive weapon alongside CJ McCollum, Lillard gets tucked up and pushed around. He has rivals crowding his shoulder. Come playoff time, his open looks diminish. Often, he is able to work through it. Sometimes, he can’t. He shot 4-for-12 in Game 1 and 3-for-17 in the series finale against Denver.

Blazers eke out Game 7 victory over Nuggets

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The Warriors are being especially tough on Lillard because of how strongly the Oakland-native has performed against them in the past, averaging 27 points per regular-season game.

“This is to go to the NBA Finals, so they’re not going to allow me to see what I’ve always seen from them,” Lillard added.

If their own star man is subject to heavy pressure, surely it makes sense for Portland to exert some of the same on Curry? If Lillard can’t get a clean look, why is the best shooter in basketball being allowed so many of them?

If Portland can find a way to energize themselves and make things tougher for Golden State then maybe this becomes a series. If not, it could turn into a stroll. The Warriors, thankful to be past the ultra-aggressive Rockets, are handling Kevin Durant’s absence just fine and walking with smiles on their faces once more.

Portland needs to find a way to remove those grins. Getting nastier, more intense and more defensively-aggressive is the best way to do it.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Trail Blazers need to get nasty vs. Warriors to avoid humiliation

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Opinion: Trail Blazers need to get nasty vs. Warriors to avoid humiliation

Damian Lillard denies saying Warriors are ‘due’ to lose.
The Western Conference Finals tip off with Tuesday’s Game 1, and Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard denies a report suggesting he said the Golden State Warriors are “due” for a crushing series loss. Lillard is said to have made the comment causing the stir after the Blazers eliminated the Denver Nuggets on Sunday with a thrilling Game 7 victory. He waited in the hallway for teammates Kanter and Turner to finish their news conferences, and a Nuggets ball boy looked at Lillard and offered some encouragement about the next round, about beating the Warriors, as originally reported by ESPN. Lillard smiled and nodded his head. “They’re due,” he said. “They’re due.

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