The Portland Trail Blazers claimed to be in a good mental state despite blowing a winnable playoff game Thursday night on the road against the back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
They said they have a strong psyche heading into Game 3 on Saturday night at Moda Center despite being down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals playoff series.
Players claimed after returning home to Portland and meeting Friday that they are ready for the challenge of playing a Warriors team that is always applying pressure to its opponents no matter the site.
“I’m in a good space,” said guard Damian Lillard, who scored a team-best 23 points Thursday in Game 2 but had the ball stolen from him on Portland’s last possession by Andre Iguodala as the clock was ticking away on a 114-111 loss. “Obviously, we look at [Thursday] night and we let one get away. [We] played much better in the second game than we did in the first, and they won both games on their home floor.
“I think that’s the best approach to have is understanding what we did to give ourselves a chance and what hurt us and allowed us to let the game slip. But now we’ve just got to protect our home floor like they did.”
The Trail Blazers had the Warriors down by 15 points at the half, 17 in the third and eight with 4 minutes 28 seconds left. But Portland failed to finish off Golden State and was left dejected over the three-point defeat.
Now, the Trail Blazers have to get past that pain of not being able to close out the Warriors.
“We’re good,” said Portland guard CJ McCollum, who had 22 points in Game 2. “Every game is different. Obviously, we would have liked to win [Thursday], but the reality is that we didn’t. So coming home for Game 3, continue to tighten some things up and work on some things that we could have done better, and continue to do the things that we did well, well again, and we’ll be OK.”
Perhaps the Trail Blazers are confident because they were 32-9 at Moda Center during the regular season, tied for the NBA’s third-best record at home with San Antonio and Toronto.
But the Warriors are not an easy team to beat anywhere. They are 4-2 on the road this postseason.
The Warriors won all three games against the Clippers at Staples Center in the first round and closed out the semifinal series against the Rockets at Houston in Game 6.
“You’re playing against the best teams in the league in the playoffs, and the stakes are high,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr explained about his team’s success away from home in the postseason. “You’re never going to catch anybody off guard. Sometimes in the regular season, you can catch a team on a tough schedule and they’re tired and they’re not ready to go, or vice versa.
“But in the playoffs, everybody is ready for everything and pretty much well rested. But our guys enjoy the challenge of going on the road. I think they genuinely … like the feeling of going on the road and playing well and winning a game. You saw their reaction after Game 6 in Houston. It’s a tougher challenge, but a more gratifying one if you can succeed.”