The Portland Trailblazers entered their Easter Sunday Game 1 matchup against the Western Conference’s top-seeded Golden State Warriors as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Blazers got 75 points from their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and still lost 121-109. USA Today NBA Insider Sam Amick joined The Jim Rome Show on Monday and shared his biggest takeaway from the Golden State’s performance.
“Just that defense. I mean that’s the major difference between the Blazers and the Warriors. Portland was better defensively later in the season, but the Warriors, they’ve been elite all year long, and I got to be honest, I’m shocked they’ve been able to do it,” Amick said about the Warriors. “When they lost Andrew Bogut last summer, I didn’t know Kevin Durant was going to become this kind of a rim protector. As much as I value Draymond Green’s game, I may have underestimated his ability to lead them defensively like he has.”
Amick pointed out that the Warriors made their 4th quarter run against Portland with superstars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry on the bench.
“You got Draymond, Ian Clark, Klay Thompson, David West, Andre Iguodala, they shut Portland down,” Amick said. “It was 88-all going into the fourth and like they said on the Warriors’ side afterwards, they know that they can score with Portland. They know Portland can score with them, but obviously, the defense was the difference.”
However, teams have more to worry about than just the Warriors’ death lineup now.
“It’s the anti-death lineup, because the death lineup, the spirit of it was mostly offensive dominance and defensively, the versatility was big as well,” Amick said. “You don’t have nearly as much fire power in that lineup, but I think it’s just especially in a game like that. I mean 88 on each side of the ledger, that’s a big, big number through three quarters.
“So kudos to Steve Kerr for making that call and saying we need to assert ourselves defensively. It helps guys like Ian were kind of giving contributions off the bench more than normal, but I guarantee you they liked what they saw and were probably going to see it again. That was the lineup they kind of stumbled on when Durant was out with that left knee injury. That’s something Draymond talked about after the game and obviously something I think they will go back to.”
Durant’s addition has allowed his teammates to focus on their strength’s more, Amick pointed out.
“Remember back in late October, Damian Lillard, to me, was kind of the unofficial spokesman for the NBA where he talked about this embarrassment of riches. That’s just not fair with Kevin Durant on board,” Amick said. “But it goes well beyond Kevin and what he does offensively, and what it does is empower guys like Draymond to focus on their defense like never before, not worry about his scoring. And it’s kind of this collective ripple effect when you have that much talent. It’s the rising tides that raises all ships, and we saw it in that game. Even though a good team like Portland that had the second best winning percentage in the NBA down the stretch of the regular season. When it mattered most, they couldn’t keep up.”