The Golden State Warriors are up 2-0 in their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Portland Trail Blazers, but Portland forward Moe Harkless may have earned an individual win Tuesday.
That victory was his defense on Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson.
Thompson scored 27 points in Tuesday's 110-99 win over Portland, but Harkless held Thompson in check for the better part of three quarters.
"I just tried to make it hard for him," Harkless said, per Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. "Our game plan was pretty much just try to take him out. I was just in him the whole time, just pretty much face-guarding him the whole game. I just wanted to make things difficult for him."
Harkless was the primary defender on Thompson in Game 2, and his defense was why Portland took a 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Thompson had five points in the first quarter and 17 points on 17 shots entering the final frame. Thompson was also called for a technical foul after shoving Harkless on Tuesday.
"I pretty much knew I was under his skin," Harkless said, per Freeman. "He was frustrated."
In the end, Golden State's depth and defense in the fourth quarter were too strong for Portland. The Warriors outscored the Blazers 34-12 in the final frame, and Golden State had five players score in double figures.
Thompson has taken on the role of Golden State's go-to player with reigning MVP and scoring champion Steph Curry out with a sprained right knee. It's likely that injury will keep Curry out for Game 3 in Portland on Saturday, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
Golden State's offense involves a lot of high screen-and-rolls behind the three-point line, which allows Thompson and Curry to get open on those catch-and-shoot opportunities. Harkless said he feels he held his own in those situations.
"You're constantly getting hit three, four times every play," Harkless said, per Freeman. "It's a challenge. But it's a challenge that I'm up for. I think I did a good job for three-and-a-half quarters."
Portland head coach Terry Stotts has capable perimeter defenders in Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu to take on Golden State's wing players. For three quarters, Portland looked to have a plan in place for the Curry-less Warriors, but the Blazers and Harkless need to play this kind of defense for a full 48 minutes to avoid a 3-0 deficit.