With the defending champs on the brink in the fourth quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers (18-17) went frozen cold and blew an 8-point lead in the 118-112 loss at Golden State.
Jusuf Nurkic missed the game with an illness, leaving the Blazers with only eight full-contract players available.
The game started as a tale of two quarters thanks to the up and down defense from the Blazers.
The Warriors came out hot in the first frame, scoring 41 points between solid shooting and a number of easy buckets cutting to the rim. Klay Thompson had 15 in the quarter alone and Jordan Poole had 14.
Both went quieter in the second, though, as Portland’s shooters in Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons started to find the bottom of the cup, scoring 23 points total between the duo in the second.
Couple that with much better interior defense and a few less wide-open looks from deep, and Portland was back in the game with a 31-19 second quarter win. That made the score 60-56 at the break.
Portland kept the good times flowing into the third, scoring 40 more points behind 11 from Lillard. Thompson found his stroke again and put up 13 more points, but the Blazers battled hard on the glass for five offensive rebounds, leading to nine second chance points.
Anfernee Simons took a nasty spill to start the quarter, slamming his head into the ground on his way down. He went to the locker room but later returned.
Meanwhile, Josh Hart was his normal gritty self, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds in the frame alone to help Lillard along the way. Portland led 96-88 going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter went back and forth with Jerami Grant and Simons leading the Blazers' charge against Poole and Draymond Green.
Portland eventually held the lead 110-102 with 5:10 to go in the game. However, that’s where everything went wrong.
The Blazers offense would go cold shooting and completely fall out of rhythm, only scoring two more points in those final minutes on a bucket from Lillard with 1:02 to go.
Poole hit a 3-pointer to pull the Warriors within one at 110-109, then it was a fastbreak dunk and a transition 3-pointer from Thompson that put Golden State up 114-110.
Lillard got the bucket and the Blazers got the stop at 114-112 to give themselves a chance, but Donte DiVincenzo picked Lillard’s pockets for a steal with 40 seconds left, then drained a 3-pointer to seal the deal.
Poole went for 41 points while Thompson had 31. Lillard had 34 to lead Portland with nine rebounds, Simons had 22 while Portland went 12 for 39 from deep. Not quite enough to hang with the Warriors at home, a place where they are now 16-2 this season.
Portland heads back home for a 7 p.m. tip on Monday, Jan. 2, against Detroit.
Young bucks: With only eight full-contract players available, rookies Shaedon Sharpe and Jabari Walker needed to find a way to provide off the spark. The 2022 draft picks did just that with nine points and nine rebounds between them. And Trendon Watford contributed plenty as well, with eight points and four rebounds to keep Portland afloat when the starters needed a breather.
Line not a friend: Portland got to the charity stripe plenty in San Francisco but had a hard time making them. The Blazers as a team went 16 for 23 from the line, highlighted by a 3 for 7 night from Josh Hart. It didn’t necessarily cost Portland the game, but you’d like to see a few more of those go down, especially with fresh legs from three days off.
Good effort?: While Portland didn’t walk away with the win, it battled on the glass to the tune of 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 19 second chance points. That was crucial on a night without Nurkic down low. It didn’t amount to a win, but the effort is there.
Game grade: C
It’s easy to drop your head on this one with how brutal the ending was, closing the game on the wrong end of a 16-2 run. But the Warriors are a dynasty for a reason and the Blazers had them on the ropes in their place with a roster featuring eight players. That’s the positive spin; now for the negative. Portland continues to find ways to lose games late. Early in the season it was the opposite with guys hitting big shots and Lillard finding them. But that time is over, and it seems like this squad could use a little more Dame Time. Whatever the solution is, Portland needs to find ways to score late game, or else they’ll keep getting blown by in the final minutes when the opponent starts getting desperate.