Warriors splash along on defense

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This is the way it’s done when Kevin Durant, the man his coach called the best basketball player on earth, can’t play.

There’s a stifling defense that keeps the other team from making even a single 3-pointer in the second quarter.

There’s a couple of guys nicknamed the Splash Brothers who couldn’t be defended — at least the way the Portland Trail Blazers attempted, with big men below the free throw line.

There’s a group of reserves, Kevon Looney, Alfonzo McKinnie, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, that lends truth to the Warriors’ slogan, “Strength in Numbers,” and gives support to a team without the injured Durant and injured DeMarcus Cousins.

The Blazers hung in for a while, showed the style and talent that on Sunday enabled them to beat Denver and advance to the NBA Western Conference final. But the Warriors are the two-time champions, and they were playing at home, Oracle Arena, Tuesday night. and it was no surprise the Dubs won, 116-94.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told us the Blazers barely had time to get to the Bay Area and get suited up.

“We were able to finish our last series on Friday,” Kerr said of the win over the Houston Rockets, “and they (Portland) had a tough game 7 in Denver, and the quick turnaround, so the schedule favored us.”

Unquestionably, but history also favors the Warriors, who have been to the NBA finals four straight years, winning three of those, and have all-stars such as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and the absent Durant.

In betting, you stick with a winner until he loses. The Warriors so far have shown no tendency to lose.

Curry had 36 points, Thompson 26. The Warriors shot 50 percent (51 on threes) and limited the Blazers to 36 percent. If Portland hadn’t made 27 of 31 free throws, it wouldn’t even have been in the game.

“I thought the key stretch for us,” said Kerr, “was the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.”

The Warriors led 77-71 after three. Quickly enough, it was 97-81.

“They got loose in the fourth quarter and had, what 39,” said Terry Stotts, the Portland coach. “But going into the fourth quarter, down six, finding ways to hang in on a night we were struggling offensively.”

Struggling because when the Warriors are at their best they are brilliant defensively, forcing bad shots, grabbing rebounds and then racing toward their own basket for a score.

“It’s just one game,” reminded Stotts. “I know they gave Damian (Lillard) a lot of attention. They clogged the paint. We didn’t finish the opportunities when we had them. So when you turn the ball over and don’t shoot well and don’t finish around the basket, we’ve got to look for other things.”

Lillard is the Oakland kid — “I could walk home from here,” he said during the post-game inteview. He showed up wearing an Oakland Athletics jersey and with an accurate account of why, averaging 28 a game, he scored just 19.

“They gave a lot of attention to the ball when I was coming off screens,” said Lillard. “Even when I was in isolation situations I was seeing two people. I think it was obvious they were trying to make things hard for me, sending two guys at me. I couldn’t get an attempt up even if I was trying to force it.”

The Warriors didn’t have that problem, not with Andrew Bogut, Looney and Green setting up screens for Steph and Klay. 

“It was a nice flow,” said Curry. “I mean, it’s fun when we’re at our best in terms of everybody feeling like they are a threat ... It puts so much pressure on the defense.”

The other defense. The Warriors defense was able to put on pressure of its own.

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