'Unbelievable' start propels Golden State to big lead, close-out rout

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - It was a high-five night all the way around for the Warriors on Monday, and especially for hot-shooting guard Stephen Curry Iright).
It was almost over before it started.

The Trail Blazers needed to win to keep their season alive.

The Golden State Warriors wanted to close out their first-round playoff series with Portland and head back to the Bay Area for some rest.

Only one team got what it wanted, and that certainly wasn't the local quintet.

The Warriors pounced like a lion on prey, dominating from wire to wire in a 128-103 blowout of the Blazers Monday night at Moda Center.

Golden State led 14-0 after three minutes, 28-5 after six minutes and 41-13 after 9 1/2 minutes. The difference was 45-22 after one quarter. Had it been a heavyweight fight, it would have ended in a technical knockout at that point.

In the NBA, though, they go for 48 minutes. The Warriors ran their lead to as many as 33 points in the second half as they closed out the four-game sweep in a manner fitting of a matchup between No. 1 and 8 seeds in the Western Conference.

"That was unbelievable," said Mike Brown, acting as Golden State's coach in place of an ailing Steve Kerr. "Our guys were locked in on both ends of the floor. Everything we did, we tried to do at a high level, and it worked."

The Warriors' solar-plexus blow from the opening tip left the Blazers reeling. They never got closer than 23 points in the second half.

"Indescribable," Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the Warriors' start. "They came out energized. We were slow to react and couldn't get it going."

"There was a sense of urgency," said Stephen Curry, the ringleader of everything Warrior on Monday night. "There was a nice energy to us before the game. We were kind of loose, but focused. It showed in the first six minutes, and we never let up."

Golden State wound up shooting .535 from the field, including a spectacular 17 for 29 (.586) from 3-point range. Portland shot .388, and only 13 for 39 (.333) from beyond the arc.

With a 3-0 lead in an elimination game, "You don't want to let go of the rope and give the other team any kind of confidence or momentum," Curry said.

"The way we showed up in the first quarter said a lot about our mind-set and focus," said Curry, who scored 37 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. "The way we played tonight on both ends of the floor is a great recipe for success down the road — moving the ball, swarming on defense, turning defense into easy offense and using all the talent that we have on the floor."

Curry put on a dazzling shooting display, sinking 12 of 20 shots from the field and 7 of 11 from behind the 3-point line.

Portland's Damian Lillard nearly matched his rival point guard, going for 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting to go with six assists. And Al-Farouq Aminu came through with 25 points and seven boards, sinking 5 of 9 treys.

The rest of the Blazers combined for 14-for-49 shooting. CJ McCollum — who averaged 28.0 points in the first three games of the series — went scoreless while missing all nine of his shots in the first half. He finished 2 for 12 and scored six points in 31 minutes.

"I didn't play particularly well tonight," McCollum said. "It sucks. At home in an elimination game, you'd like to play better. But credit them. They did a good job defensively."

Lillard played the entire game until Stotts removed him from the lineup with 6:12 remaining and the Warriors in front 120-89. The Moda Center sellout throng of 19,902 rewarded him with a standing ovation, as much for his leadership and performance through the season as for his terrific play Monday.

"After they jumped on us … I felt if we put together a good run, we could get back into the game," Lillard said. "Regardless of what the score is, this is our season right here. So I wasn't going to just lay down because of how the game started."

The Warriors, Lillard said, "showed their championship pedigree tonight. When you can't sustain your mental focus against them, in five minutes you can be down 25 points."

It took the Warriors six minutes to get that far ahead Monday night.

By that time, the Blazers were waving the season goodbye.

And the Warriors were ready to head back to the Bay Area for some rest and preparation for their Western Conference semifinals, loaded with talent, a team that seems better than the one that won an NBA-record 73 games and reached the NBA Finals a year ago.

"We're more experienced (than the 2015-16 team)," Curry said. "When we're clicking, we're a more powerful team. Hopefully that shows up in every series we play, so we can give ourselves a chance to realize gold down the stretch of these playoffs. We're very confident about who we are and how we're going to finish."

NOTES: Golden State's 45 points tied the NBA record for the most points scored in the first quarter of a playoff game. They were also four shy of the franchise playoff single-quarter record. The Warriors scored 49 in the fourth quarter against San Antonio in 1991. … It was only the second time the Blazers have been swept in a best-of-seven series. The other time was in the 1999 Western Conference finals against San Antonio. … The Warriors have won 17 of 19 regular-season and postseason meetings with the Blazers over the past three seasons. … Besides Lillard, the other four Portland starters were a combined 4 for 24 from the field … McCollum didn't hit his first field goal until early in the fourth quarter. … Forward Kevin Durant, who had missed the previous two games with a sore calf, started and played 20 minutes for the Warriors, totaling 10 points and three rebounds. … Kerr, still ailing from the effects of back problems, watched the game on television from the team's locker room. He had stayed behind at the team hotel for Game 3.

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