Blazers clinch no worse than No. 5 playoff spot in shootout with Warriors, Curry
The Trail Blazers found out a couple of things Sunday night at the Moda Center.
They learned Houston will be their first-round opponent in the playoffs.
And it became clear that when it comes to the Blazers stopping Stephen Curry, the only one who can do that is Curry himself.
Curry scored a season-high 47 points, but he passed on an opportunity to win the game for Golden State at the end of overtime.
With Portland ahead 119-117, Curry drove the key, then spun and kicked the ball out to teammate Andre Iguodala, whose 3-point shot bounced off the back of the rim and into the hands of the Blazers' Wesley Matthews as time expired.
The Blazers celebrated rather lustily after the win that clinched at worst the No. 5 playoff spot in the Western Conference, assured they will face Houston in the first round and kept alive the chance to pass the Rockets in the standings and gain homecourt advantage.
Portland (53-28) trails Houston (53-27) by a half-game. The Rockets, who hold the tie-breaker with Portland, can lock up the fourth spot and homecourt advantage in the first round by beating either San Antonio Monday or New Orleans Wednesday. If Houston were to lose both of those games, the Blazers would need to win their final regular-season game at home Wednesday night against the L.A. Clippers to seize the No. 4 spot.
The Blazers downplayed the significance of homecourt advantage in the first round.
"We know we're going to play (the Rockets) regardless," said reserve guard Mo Williams, who had one of his most sensational offensive games of the season with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. "They've got to come to our place at some point. They're a good team, no matter where we play them. We'll have to bring our 'A' game. The homecourt would be nice, but (not getting it) is not going to be the end of the world for us. We have to hit the road at some point anyway."
Portland's Nicolas Batum recalled the first round of the playoffs five years ago, when the Blazers held homecourt advantage against Houston. The Rockets won the opener 108-81 at the Rose Garden and went on to win the series in six games.
"The important thing is, we're in" the postseason, said Batum, who had one of his better all-around games of the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Sunday's game was a spectacle, in no small part due to the performance of Curry, who did all he could to see that his team won. The Warriors (49-31) went in hoping to knock off Portland, which would have given them a shot at overtaking the Blazers and moving into the No. 5 seed.
"This was a great tuneup for the playoffs," said Portland coach Terry Stotts after a game that saw nine ties and 16 lead changes. "It's not a playoff game and wasn't a playoff atmosphere, but both teams really wanted to the game. You saw a lot of effort from both teams. It was a good preparation game for us."
The Blazers weren't sure they agreed with their coach.
"It had a little bit of a playoff feel," said Portland center Robin Lopez, who had 16 points and seven rebounds. "It did a great job of preparing us for that atmosphere. It was a combination of momentum, boxing, intelligence -- a lot of different things."
Boxing? As in, the teams exchanging blows?
"That's exactly what it felt like," Lopez said. "There was haymaker after haymaker for awhile out there."
"That was a fun game, a crazy game," Batum said. "We'd make a shot, they'd come right back at us. craziest game of the year."
Curry and backcourt partner Klay Thompson helped make it so with some of the finest shooting the Blazers' home building has seen in its two decades of existence. Curry's 47 points came on 16-for-29 shooting from the field, 7 for 14 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 from the foul line. Thompson, son of ex-Blazer Mychal, chipped in 25 points -- all after intermission.
"They're probably the two best shooters in the league," said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who struggled through a 3-for-13 shooting night and finished with 13 points and five assists. "Neither one of them had much space on many of their shots. They made tough shots. If they're going to make those shots for a whole game, you have to live with it."
Curry and Thompson didn't make them the whole game. Curry scored only three points in the first quarter. Thompson was scoreless at halftime. Once they got going, though, it was Katy Bar the Door.
Lillard mostly guarded Thompson. Stotts gave the primary defensive assignment on Curry to Matthews, who did his darndest to make Curry's life miserable.
"Wes did a terrific job," Stotts said. "Curry got his 47 points, but he made him work for it."
Curry put on a shooting clinic, doing a little bit of everything.
"He's not the best shooter in the league for nothing," Batum said. "He was crossing over, making step-back 3's, floaters, little jump hooks he's a freak of nature, a great player."
Why, then, didn't Curry take the shot that could have buried the Blazers at game's end?
"I turned the corner, was going pretty fast downhill and it looked like more than one defender was closing in," Curry said. "I turned around and (Iguodala) was wide open. It was a shot we like and he's made before."
Maybe the better question is, why didn't Golden State coach Mark Jackson draw up something for Curry?
"Steph made the right play," said Jackson, who evidently left it up to his All-Star point guard. "Unselfish play, great look (by Iguodala). We ended up short, a disappointing loss, but we move forward."
With Golden State trailed 105-102 at the end of regulation and Stotts screaming at his players to intentionally foul to no avail, Curry had fed teammate Draymond Green, who sank a 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The Warriors -- who will enter the playoffs as the West's No. 6 or 7 seed -- had rallied from a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left to force the extra session.
Batum opened the overtime with a 3-pointer to give Portland a 108-105 lead. Curry's 3 put the Warriors on top with 2:38 to play, but Matthews converted a three-point play and the Blazers were back in front 113-111.
Thompson answered with another 3 and the Warriors led 114-113 with 2:02 remaining. Matthews bounced in a 3-pointer for a 116-114 load with 1:10 remaining, but Thompson hit again from 3-point territory for a 117-116 advantage with 55 seconds left.
Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge -- who had a team-high 26 points and seven rebounds -- responded with an 18-footer and the Blazers were again in front 118-117 with 39.6 seconds to play. Curry missed a step-back jumper and Portland rebounded with 26 seconds left, leaving only a two-point differential between the shot clock and game clock.
The Warriors erred by choosing not to foul, so the Blazers could have run the game clock down to two seconds left. But Lillard drove to the basket and was fouled on a layup with 9.0 seconds remaining -- a major mental mistake.
"I got confused because (the Warriors) weren't fouling," Lillard said. "I saw (Curry) keep turning his head and I just went around him. But that was a bad move on my part."
Lillard compounded the error by making only one of two foul shots for a 119-117 lead. The Warriors bailed him out with a mistake of their own -- not letting the outcome rest on the shooting stroke of Curry.
NOTES: There was plenty of 3-point shooting. Golden State was 17 for 37 from beyond the arc, Portland 10 for 24. All but eight of the makes were after halftime. Matthews had a nice offensive game with 24 points, making 6 of 13 shots from the field, 4 of 10 from 3-point range and 8 of 10 from the line. Curry was seven short of his career high of 54 points. He averaged 36.0 points in four appearances against the Blazers this season. Curry was hot through much of the game, but especially so in the second quarter (18 points over the final 6:50 of the period) and in the fourth quarter (17 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range). "He's a great shooter, a great playmaker, a great ballhander," Lillard said. "Once a guy like that gets it going, he's tough to stop, especially when they're setting screen after screen for him. All it takes is a little bit of space. he doesn't have to get a great look for the caliber of shooter he is." Lillard made another mental error, fouling Curry while attempting a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer in the first half (Curry hit all three free throw for a 52-44 Golden State lead).
Stotts may have erred by not inserting Williams near the end of regulation and overtime, but the reserve guard wasn't complaining. "I was locked in," he said. "I knew the magnitude of the game and I wanted to do my part. I always want to be in the game, but (Stotts) makes those decisions. I got to roll with it. I wasn't upset. It's all about winning right now." Stotts on Williams' performance: "It's as one of his better offensive games of year. He shot the ball really well, kept the tempo going, opened up driving lanes, made big shots, big plays for us." Golden State's David Lee has had good games against Portland in the past, but not Sunday night. The veteran power forward had four points on 2-for-9 shooting and four rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Portland's 53 wins are the most since the Blazers went 54-28 in 2008-09. Portland backup center/forward Joel Freeland, who has been out since Feb. 12 with a knee injury, was activated but did not see action.