OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors reached the Western Conference Finals for the second-straight year by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 125-121 in Game 5 of the second round.
Klay Thompson had 33 points, two rebounds, and one steal for the Warriors, who beat Portland 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Stephen Curry added 29 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds for Golden State.
There were talks about Thompson being fatigued since he did a bulk of the work while Curry was out with a MCL sprain until the MVP returned in Game 4. Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said his shooting guard should be exhausted.
“Klay should be tired. He’s been chasing Damian Lillard around for (five) games,” Kerr said. “That’s a tough job. He’s probably one of the few players in the league capable of taking up the responsibilities on both ends. Klay is doing great. We definitely needed him with Steph out and I’m sure his happy than anybody to get Steph back.”
Lillard led Portland with 28 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. C.J. McCollum chipped in 27 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, and Al-Farouq Aminu added 16 points, nine rebounds, and two assists.
The Warriors got off to a rough start after tipoff. Golden State missed seven of their first 12 shots while the Trail Blazers made seven of 12 from the field to jump out to a modest 20-10 lead halfway through the first quarter.
After a called timeout by Kerr, Golden State went to work. The Warriors rolled off an 11-0 run to take a brief 21-20 edge. The game was tied three times before Portland ended the first 12 minutes of play with a 30-27 lead.
The Trail Blazers’ first-half strategy worked in their favor. After rebounds or Warriors’ turnovers, Portland continuously pushed the ball up the court with one or two passes that ended in buckets in transition. Between the end of the first quarter and two minutes into the second, Portland had a 10-0 run.
The Warriors cut the lead 41-38, though Portland climbed back up 59-47, on a 3-point shot by Crabbe with two minutes left to play in the first half. Portland hung on to a 64-58 halftime lead.
Damian Lillard had 21 points and while Aminu and Maurice Harkless add 10 points each for Portland. Thompson led the Warriors with 17 points in the first half. His backcourt mate Curry was 3-for-9 from the floor with seven points.
Curry hit a trey to give the Warriors a two-point 75-73 edge to complete a 13-3 run at the 6:59 mark of the third quarter. The high-scoring affair between the two teams continued with the Trail Blazers on top 93-91 after three quarters.
The Warriors were able to regain the lead early in the fourth quarter, but reserve Marreese Speights gave the team a larger lift when he hit a baskets for two points, followed by a 27-foot trey to make the score 102-98 at the 8:19 mark.
“I was really proud of Mo‘ because this series really hasn’t gone his way,” Kerr said. “The matchup may not (have been) perfect for him. But he always stay ready and he always seems to come through.”
The Warriors had an eight-point spread on Portland with less than six minutes left in the game. The Trail Blazers inched their way back to cut the lead 110-109 on a three-point play by McCollum. The Warriors managed to get up by six points, but the Portland charged back to trail by two points with 1:09 remaining.
Curry struggled out of the gates early in the game, but he rose to the occasion when it was necessary. The league’s MVP made a three-point basket with 24.9 seconds left that realistically sealed the game. Curry also made two key free throws with 10.9 seconds left that solidify the victory.
The Trail Blazers at times looked they had Golden State on the ropes in the last four games of the series. In hindsight, it was clear that the Warriors just knew how to play 48 minutes a little bit better.
“We had our opportunities,” said Portland head coach Terry Stotts. “We had our opportunities in Game 2 and we had our opportunities in Game 4. I know it sounds cliche, but that’s why you watch video, come to work the next day and see where you go from there.”
Stephen Curry accepted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award from Commissioner Adam Silver before game. Curry garnered an unprecedented 131 first-place votes, the first unanimous MVP in the league’s history.
Curry also became the 11th player in in NBA history to collect back-to-back MVP rights, the first to do so since Steve Nash accomplished it in 2005 and 2006. Across the board, Curry is the 39th player in four major sports leagues to be named MVP in back-to-back years.
“I’m out here playing the game, doing what I love to do, and what I’ve been blessed to do,” Curry said. “You never know how it’s going to unfold. But you just have that faith and drive. I want to thank God for my health and the talents he’s given me and my family that supports me.”
More MVP Talk
On the heels of comments by LeBron James and former NBA player Tracy McGrady in regard to Seth Curry’s second Most Valuable Player honors in as many years, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said he doesn’t have a “problem” with the criticism.
After it was announced that Curry was selected as the league’s best, McGrady said it was apparent to him that the NBA is “watered down” to make such an unanimous call by the sports writers. For James, to him, the word “valuable” could have different connotations.
“I didn’t take that as a slight,” Kerr said of James’ comments. “I think LeBron is absolutely right. Most valuable players could be interpreted in multiple ways. I read his comments. He said there’s no doubt Steph deserves it. I think it’s more a philosophical comments in my mind.”
The NBA Coach of the Year also stated that the debate is not that far from the talk when he was in a Chicago Bull uniform. The only offshoot is that numerous “outlets” allow the discussion to thrive.
“I don’t think the critique is that much different than 20 years ago,” Kerr said. “It’s just that there are more outlets and forums for people to speak,” Kerr said. “There were a lot outspoken people 20 years ago when the Bulls were winning championships.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer