As Golden State and Portland gear up for Game 4 Monday night, conventional thinking would expect each member of Dub Nation to have a broom in hand.
In the final 18 minutes of action during Saturday night’s Game 3, a 22-point swing handed the Warriors a 3-0 series lead after it appeared as if the Trail Blazers were going to steal a victory from their short-handed opponents. On top of Kevin Durant sitting out for his second straight game, head coach Steve Kerr was absent due to illness.
However, despite their losses on the night, the Warriors flipped the switch during a four-minute period in the third quarter. Riding the spark plug performances of JaVale McGee (just like in Game 2) and Klay Thompson, Golden State unleashed a 19-1 run on Portland. Over that span, Thompson chipped in 11 of his 24 points and hit all three of this three-point attempts. McGee contributed a few back-breaking slam dunks that energized his fellow Warriors.
Lift off, JaVale McGee ? pic.twitter.com/e0exR4yoYb
— NBA (@NBA) April 23, 2017
Game 3 marked the return of Portland’s starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, who sat out the first two games with a non-displaced fibular fracture in his right leg that he suffered on March 30. Playing in just 16 minutes Nurkic managed to grab 11 rebounds and score two points. However, he didn’t look close to 100 percent and couldn’t make nearly the impact he did in the regular season. It remains to be seen if Nurkic will play more minutes during Game 4, but from the looks of Game 3’s outcome, the seven-footer’s presence won’t be enough to help the Trail Blazers avoid a series sweep.
At this point, there isn’t much reason to bring Durant back for Game 4, no matter how the calf is feeling. Over the last two games, the Warriors have proven they can get the job done without arguably their best player. More importantly, the health of Kerr needs to be monitored for Monday night.
Monte Poole, of CSN Bay Area, reported that Kerr is suffering from severely intense pain. Kerr missed the first 43 games of the 2015-16 season while recovering from back surgery, and still experiences side effects from that operation.
Small, but good update on Steve Kerr. Heard he was feeling well enough to watch film with coaches today and wanted to get to practice after
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 23, 2017
Should Kerr be unable to give it a go for Game 4, assistant Mike Brown would continue to fill in for him. Realistically though, the absence of Kerr or Durant shouldn’t have any big-time effects on the Warriors and their quest to close out this first-round series.
The Warriors continue to show their depth, teamwork, and other-worldly ball movement throughout this series, which makes runs like their third quarter barrage nearly inevitable. With 30-point efforts from Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, plus 17 points and eight rebounds from Evan Turner, the Trail Blazers still couldn’t hold on to a 17-point lead. Golden State out-assisted Portland 25-to-17, and with the long list of more than capable shooters on their team, that level of passing will eventually generate several open looks for the Warriors, as it did in Game 3.
To beat the Warriors the Trail Blazers need to seemingly play 48 straight minutes of perfect basketball. Through three games, despite playing great for a majority of the time, they have not been able to sustain the level of play necessary to overcome Golden State.
Who wins Game 4?
Without Durant and Kerr, Monday night could present Portland with their last chance to steal a game from Golden State this season. With Nurkic potentially playing in his second straight game, the Trail Blazers could have all the ingredients in line to push this series to five games.
However, that likely won’t happen. The Warriors will come into Game 4 wielding brooms to complete the 4-0 series sweep. They are simply too much for the Trail Blazers, even when they aren’t at full strength.
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