It's all Thompson, Curry and Warriors' traveling circus
The traveling circus rolled through town Friday night, and what a show it was for the admission-paying customers at the Moda Center.
The juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors turned wood into sawdust in a 128-108 dismantling of the Trail Blazers, running their record to an almost unfathomable 34-2.
To see is to believe, and the defending NBA champion Warriors are a sight to behold.
There is the 20-minute pregame ballhandling and shooting ritual by last year's most valuable player, Stephen Curry, that was witnessed by hundreds of early-arriving fans.
Once the opening tipoff came around, it was Klay Thompson taking the baton. The youngest son of ex-Blazer Mychal Thompson, reared in Lake Oswego through his middle school years, bombed in 19 first-quarter points -- sinking 5 of 5 from 3-point range -- en route to a 36-point barrage.
Curry added 26 points and nine assists despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. And 6-7, 230-pound forward Draymond Green notched his NBA-high eighth triple-double of the season, quietly putting up 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in 33 minutes.
The Warriors fired at a .529 clip from the field, sank 18 of 32 attempts (.563) from 3-point range and dished out 36 assists on 46 baskets. At the defensive end, they held Portland (15-24) to .396 shooting on their way to the best 36-game start in NBA history.
"I don't even think it's about how talented they are," Portland's Damian Lillard said. "It's how well they play together and how much of an understanding they have of what makes them them. It's the way they move without the ball, the way they share the ball, how they defend.
"Offensively, guys know what the team needs from them. They do it as best they can. When you do that, you have a championship team. It's obvious why they won a championship last season and why they've only lost two games this season."
The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman finished the regular season with the best mark in history -- 72-10.
The Warriors "are on pace to have the best record ever," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "They likely will get it. They're dominating the league right now. I don't see any signs of letting up. They know how to play, they know their formula for success and they execute it very well."
The only bright spot for the Blazers was a record-setting night by Lillard. In his third game back after missing seven games with plantar fasciitis, Portland's All-Star point guard went for a season-high 40 points (albeit on 12-for-27 shooting) and 10 assists. It was the first time a Blazer has pulled a 40/10 double in the 20-year history of the arena. Last time it was achieved by a Portland player at home: Clyde Drexler at Memorial Coliseum in 1989.
"It's always good to be the first one to do something, especially being a part of an organization I plan on being with my entire career," Lillard said. "It's an honor, but I'd have liked to have it come in a winning effort."
The Warriors took control from the start, jumping to a 12-2 lead as the Blazers missed their first nine shots from the field. Thompson was 7 for 9 from the field in helping stake Golden State to a 38-21 advantage after one quarter.
"I was in a great rhythm," said Thompson, who finished 13 for 22 from the field, including 7 for 10 from 3-point territory. "I was taking pretty good shots. Just happened to be one of those quarters. It just kind of happens -- no real good explanation for it."
Thompson had 24 points and Curry 13 to stake Golden State to a 74-52 lead at the half. Curry doubled his total with 13 points in the third quarter, and the Warriors took a 106-87 into the final period. The Blazers never got closer than 18 the rest of the way.
"We were able to start the game off on the right foot," Curry said. "That's the key when you come into this arena especially against a talented offensive team like they are. You don't want to get behind.
"We got stops early, stuck to our principals, made it tough on them and played our game."
Curry didn't shoot particularly well -- 8 for 18 from the field, 4 for 11 from beyond the arc -- but provided a few of the Steph moments that have become legendary over the last season and a half.
In the first quarter, he drove through the lane and, as he was moving away from the basket, flipped a spinning shot that went off the glass and cleanly through the net. He didn't call bank -- did he?
In the third quarter, Curry drove the baseline under the basket and flipped a backhand lob up to center Andrew Bogut, who one-hand-jammed it.
Late in the quarter, Curry deked defender Moe Harkless into thinking he was going backdoor. Harkless turned his back and headed to the basket. Curry backed up and took a pass at the 3-point line. Though he missed the open shot, it drew oohs and has from the crowd.
Hundreds of spectators in Warriors blue and yellow garb stalked the arena, cheering every basket for the NBA's best team.
"It's fun to see," Curry said. "We want to feed off that energy when it's available. When we were out there shooting pregame, it was pretty packed with a lot of blue and yellow. Thankfully, we're getting wins and giving them something to cheer about."
"It was great to see how many fans we had," Thompson said. "I was fortunate to have grown up here and seen a lot of games in this building. When the Lakers were really good, they'd get a crowd like that. It was really cool to see how far we've come."
The Warriors had a dream season in 2014-15, going 67-15 in the regular season before sweeping through the playoffs on their way to the title. They have things rolling even more smoothly this time around.
"We couldn't ask for a better start almost midway through the regular season," Thompson said. "It's crazy how fast the season is going. Winning helps that.
"We're still hungry. There's a long way to go before we get to where we want to. But we also have to enjoy this. We have a special group. We all sacrifice to win. It's really fun."
NOTES -- It was the third straight setback for Portland, which continues its five-game homestand Sunday against Oklahoma City. Golden State is 17-0 at home, 17-2 on the road. The Warriors are 101-17 in regular-season games since the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Thompson is averaging 33.0 points over the last five games. Lillard scored 20 points in each half and finished three points shy of his career high of 43. "He's a talented player," said Curry, who matched up with Lillard much of the evening. "If you're not on your game, he is capable of big nights like tonight. He made some plays. You like that back and forth and that competition, but every night at our position, you have to be ready." Portland's other starting guard, CJ McCollum, had a poor shooting night, going 7 for 23 from the field while scoring 17 points.
Assistant coach Luke Walton, son of ex-Blazer great Bill Walton, ran the Warriors as he has done all season in the absence of head coach Steve Kerr, who continues to deal with back issues. "The toughest thing in this league is managing success and managing failure," Stotts said. "He is managing success very well." Kerr has been at all Golden State home games this season and began traveling with the Warriors on the road just after Christmas. He was at the Moda Center Friday night but stayed in the locker room and watched the game on a monitor. "As far as preparation, when Steve's with us, he's very involved," Walton said. "When he's not, there's a way we like doing things. That's what Steve set up when he first got here. It's the assistants' job to learn all that and understand it and help teach it. Even if he's not involved directly, he's still indirectly running the show." Walton said Kerr convenes with the other coaches prior to the game but leaves the in-game coaching to the assistants. "He's not in my ear during the game, telling me what to do," Walton said. "It's part of what made it so great for his assistants. He trusts us. He doesn't micromanage. He tells me to make the decisions. It's a confidence-booster when your boss gives you that type of trust."