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Game 3 Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers

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The second game of Portland and Golden State’s first-round playoff series provided no more hope for the Trail Blazers to get a victory than the end of Game 1 did.

In fact, with Kevin Durant missing from the Warriors lineup in Game 2 with a calf injury, the 110-81 blowout Portland received should effectively take any remaining wind out of their sails going forward in this series.

Through the first two games of this series, the Trail Blazers have seen polar opposite performances from their two best players. After combining for 75 points in Game 1 and pushing Portland on the brink of an upset through three-quarters, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum scored just 23 points on 9-for-34 shooting.

While missing Durant on the court, the Warriors’ top two shooters — Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — also struggled from the field. Shooting 6-of-18 and 6-of-17 respectively, Curry and Thompson didn’t have typical shooting nights that could put the Trail Blazers away. But the difference that was seen throughout Game 2, and what should carry on through Game 3 and the remainder of the series, is the difference in bench play between the two teams.

Golden State saw contributions from their bench Wednesday night that the Blazers just simply could not match. JaVale McGee was perfect from the field on his way to 15 points, and Ian Clark chipped in 13 points and five rebounds of his own. Against this Trail Blazers team that is missing their starting center in Jusuf Nurkic, Andre Iguodala was able to grab 10 rebounds off the bench.

Heading into Game 3, it’s hard to see anything different happening for the Trail Blazers if Nurkic continues to sit out. On Tuesday, Nurkic listed himself as “day-to-day,” saying, “I’m close, but not ready to play.” Should Nurkic finally hit the court for the third installment of this series, fortunes could change enough for Portland to be able to grab a win. But without their starting center in Game 3, the Trail Blazers will again find themselves struggling to rebound the basketball and stop the Warriors from getting to the basket at will.

In a series that was intriguing from the get-go due to all of the incredible scorers on the floor at one time between both teams, the victories by the Warriors so far have been decided by players like Draymond Green and McGee.

Watching the status of Durant heading into to Game 3 will be interesting solely from the perspective of making sure one of Golden State’s best players is healthy moving forward. As the Warriors displayed in Game 2, Durant doesn’t seem all that necessary to beat a hobbled Trail Blazers team. Expect Golden State to continue sitting Durant should that left calf show the slightest of troubles before Game 3 tips off.

Lillard and McCollum should bounce back in Game 3 to put up their typical scoring numbers, and maybe without Durant plus another cold shooting night from the Warriors backcourt, Portland could keep Game 3 interesting. But without Nurkic, the Trail Blazers will face the same problems of defending the paint and affecting shots around the rim that they have in the first two games of this series.

Who Wins Game 3?

Whether Durant suits up for Game 3 at this point shouldn’t matter for a Warriors victory. Golden State has too deep of a bench and loads more playmakers than Portland. However, should Durant play after sitting out of Game 2, bet the house on the Warriors securing a 3-0 series lead.

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About Dennis Chambers

Dennis Chambers

Dennis Chambers is an NBA writer in his first season with Basketball Insiders. Based out of Philadelphia he has previously covered NCAA basketball and high school recruiting.