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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Four things to watch in Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers

Even without Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors cruised to a 116-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Stephen Curry led the way for Golden State with 36 points in the win. Klay Thompson (26) and Draymond Green (12) were the only other Warriors in double figures scoring, but the likes of Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney made their presence known on defence.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, meanwhile, struggled with 36 points on 11-for-31 shooting from the field.

What can the Blazers do to slow down Curry? Will they get more from their leading scorers? Here are four things to watch in Game 2...

Stephen Curry pick-and-rolls

The biggest reason the Warriors won Game 1 was because of Curry, who finished with a game-high 36 points.

Curry did the bulk of his scoring from the perimeter. Nine of his 12 made baskets came from the 3-point line, tying his career-high for 3s made in a playoff game.

There's not much the Blazers could've done to prevent some of those shots from going down - the one he made in the closing seconds of the second quarter being the perfect example - but it's these sorts of looks they can't afford to give up to the best shooter in the world:

Curry and the Warriors targeted Portland's bigs all game long by putting them in pick-and-rolls. Knowing they much prefer to drop to the paint, where they can use their size to clog up the paint, it allowed Curry to walk into a number of wide-open pull-ups.

Curry has been practically automatic on those shots this postseason - he's made 28 of his 70 3-point attempts off the dribble, per NBA.com.

It wasn't just Enes Kanter who dropped back on those plays either. The Blazers did the same with Zach Collins despite him being more nimble than Kanter.

The Blazers probably don't want Kanter or Collins to switch onto him, but they'll need both of them to be more aggressive in Game 2 to keep Curry off the 3-point line.

An alternative is going small by playing Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless in the frontcourt. While that would take away one of Portland's biggest advantages in this series - offensive rebounding - it would allow them to switch more liberally onto Curry and Thompson.

Portland against traps

Turnovers were a massive problem for the Blazers in Game 1. Not only did they commit 21, but the Warriors also turned those mistakes into 31 points. That was roughly a quarter of Golden State's points in the game.

Lillard was responsible for seven of the team's turnovers. Iguodala and Thompson took turns defending the four-time All-Star and the Warriors provided plenty of help behind them whenever Lillard put the ball on the floor.

"They gave a lot of attention to the ball when I was coming off screens," Lillard said post-game. "Even when I was in isolation situations, I was seeing two or three people. That was obvious, that they were trying to make things hard for me just by making me see bodies and sending two guys are me sometimes.

"Sometimes I couldn't even get an attempt up, even if I was trying to force it. They did a good job tonight defensively. Even when I was trying to find guys they were getting deflections just because there was a crowd."

With how explosive of a scorer Lillard is, the Warriors will likely continue to defend him the same for the rest of this series.

Beyond the turnovers, they were able to limit Lillard to 19 points on 4-for-12 shooting from the field in Game 1 by - once again - making sure he saw multiple bodies when he made a move towards the basket.

That puts pressure on other players to step up, starting with McCollum and extending to Kanter, Harkless and Aminu.

Of the four, Harkless played the best in Game 1. He finished with 17 points, most of his baskets coming on timely cuts to take advantage of the Warriors doubling the ball.

The Blazers will need much more of that from Kanter, Harkless and Aminu, in particular, to punish the Warriors for the way they're defending Lillard.

Golden State's bench

Heading into the Western Conference Finals, Golden State's second unit had been averaging 22.0 points per game in these playoffs, the third-worst rate in the league behind only the Houston Rockets (21.0) and Toronto Raptors (21.6).

You wouldn't know that based on how they played in Game 1, as the Warriors' bench outscored the Blazers' 36-28.

A lot of that second unit's scoring came in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach, but Jonas Jerebko gave the Warriors a spark off the bench in the first half with seven points.

Jerebko shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the field during that stretch, even making his lone 3-point attempt.

Kevin Durant is expected to re-join the Warriors at some point in the Western Conference Finals, but until he does, they'll need all the scoring they can get from players not named Curry and Thompson.

An empowered Klay Thompson

It probably isn't a coincidence that Thompson set new highs for himself in these playoffs in the two games Durant has missed to injury.

In Game 6 against the Rockets, Thompson attempted 13 3-pointers, his previous high being 11 in Game 5 against the LA Clippers. In Game 1 against the Blazers, he attempted 24 field goals, his previous high being 20, which he did twice in the first round and twice in the second round.

Thompson made 10 of those field goal attempts in Game 1 against the Blazers, finishing with 26 points. Even though it was his most efficient night, Thompson knocked down a couple of shots only he and his fellow Splash Brother can make, such as this off-balanced 3-pointer in the second quarter...

...as well as this difficult catch-and-shoot 3-pointer over McCollum in the fourth quarter:

You can expect to see a lot more of that as long as Durant is sidelined.

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