Stephen Curry, Warriors Sweep Blazers; Advance to 5th Straight NBA Finals

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2019

PORTLAND, OR - MAY 20:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals on May 20, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors completed their sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference Finals with a 119-117 overtime victory in Monday's Game 4 at the Moda Center.

Golden State is headed to the NBA Finals for the fifth straight year and has an opportunity to be the first team to three-peat as champions since the Los Angeles Lakers did so in 2002.

Stephen Curry played the entire second half and overtime with Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins all sidelined and led the way with a triple-double of 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Draymond Green (18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 dimes) also added a triple-double and a monster three in the extra period, while Klay Thompson chipped in 17 points.

The Trail Blazers received a head-turning performance from Meyers Leonard (30 points, 12 rebounds and five three-pointers) and a solid showing from the backcourt combination of Damian Lillard (28 points and 12 assists) and CJ McCollum (26 points and seven assists). Even that wasn't enough against the mighty Warriors, although Lillard had the chance to win it at the buzzer but came up just short.

           

Stephen Curry Reminds Everyone the Warriors Are His Team in Sweep vs. Blazers

The Trail Blazers received the game of a lifetime from Leonard and spurts of excellence from their two guards and still couldn't salvage a home game thanks to the brilliance of Curry.

The Davidson product scored 25 points in the first half and was a blur of constant motion that never stopped moving on the offensive end. He forced switches and help defenders to venture too far from their responsibilities and needed just the smallest sliver of space to unleash his unstoppable arsenal of off-balance jumpers, floaters and three-pointers.

Everything ran through him and Green for the majority of this series.

They worked in pick-and-rolls to evade double-teams and read the defense to near perfection for extended stretches. If two defenders chased Curry, Green would either relentlessly attack the basket or play the role of point forward with lobs and kick-outs to the corner. If defenders dared go underneath screens or sag off him, Curry drained the three-pointer.

It was reminiscent of the Warriors team that won the title in 2015 and an NBA-record 73 regular-season games in 2015-16 before Durant arrived and made them an even more dangerous superpower.

Durant won the last two NBA Finals MVPs, and a legitimate argument can be made that he has taken the title of best player in the league from an aging LeBron James. He was also playing at the peak of his powers earlier in these playoffs and was completely unguardable before his calf strain.

Any other team in the league would be at a loss if someone of that caliber suffered an injury and was out for crunch time of Game 5 and all of Game 6 against the Houston Rockets and the entirety of the Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers.

No other team has Curry.

Curry's 33 points in the second half of Game 6 against the Rockets was a warning sign of what was to come. He finished with 36 points in Game 1, 37 points in Game 2, 36 points in Game 3 and 37 points in Game 4 to quickly finish Portland's season.

It wasn't just that he was unstoppable as a scorer that stood out, but his willingness to battle for rebounds or dish to open shooters when doubles came his way was noticeable. It was a vintage performance of beautiful basketball with constant motion and passes whipping from one side of the court to the other.

It was also a reminder that the Warriors are Curry's team even if Durant is a megastar who took over the last two NBA Finals.

Curry has been with Golden State his entire career, has three championships and two MVPS, and will still be there next season even if Durant leaves. He will be the first player fans think of when reflecting on this era of Warriors dominance as the one who started it and will surely usher it to a close in impressive fashion.

His incredible Western Conference Finals with Durant sidelined only reinforces that reality.

              

Despite Sweep, Blazers Exceeded Season Expectations

It would have been easy for the Trail Blazers to fold up and accept their fate heading into Monday's Game 4. After all, no team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit, and they were tasked with trying to be the first against arguably the top team ever to lace it up.

Instead, they put up a fight and gave their fans one last show in a season that has exceeded all expectations.

Leonard played the role of unexpected hero for much of the game, pouring in 25 points in the first half alone and pulling Golden State's bigs away from the basket with his perimeter shooting. That, in turn, gave Lillard and McCollum more room to operate, which helped Portland build a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter before the Warriors came charging back.

The Trail Blazers were also more effective by taking Lillard off the ball so he didn't have to deal with Golden State's constant trapping the moment he crossed half court like he did earlier in the series. That allowed him to pick his spot to attack and pull the defense in closer to the basket, which freed up open looks on the wings and in the corner when he facilitated.

It was a way of Portland dictating terms when the team had the ball instead of the other way around with the Warriors forcing Lillard out of the play near half court.

Still, even that wasn't enough, as the two-time defending champions forced overtime by holding the home team to 16 points in the final quarter and finished the sweep in the extra period.

The Trail Blazers battling to the end with timely adjustments and a sense of desperation was one final act in a memorable season. This team won one combined playoff series the last four years and hadn't advanced to the Western Conference Finals since 2000 but treated its fans to iconic moments and a series against the Warriors that was closer than the sweep indicates.

Portland held double-digit leads in Games 2, 3 and 4 and perhaps could have battled to a different result if Jusuf Nurkic was healthy enough to play, Enes Kanter didn't have a separated shoulder and Lillard wasn't battling through an injury.

This team still beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in an emotional first round that included Lillard's incredible buzzer-beater to finish the series. The team still fought back from 3-2 down against the Denver Nuggets in the second round and won a Game 7 on the road while clawing back from its own double-digit deficit.

And the team still played the Warriors tight enough that three of the games were there for the taking late in the second half.

Sweep or not, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of for the 2018-19 Portland Trail Blazers.

           

What's Next?

The Warriors will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals and are four wins away from lifting their third straight Larry O'Brien Trophy.

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