SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Martin Rogers breaks down Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, where the Warriors used another big third quarter to beat the Blazers for a commanding 3-0 series lead.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Stephen Curry doesn’t have an explanation for it. Draymond Green has no idea why. Steve Kerr is just plain grateful for it. Simply put, the Golden State Warriors don’t have a clue why they are awesomely, destructively, instinctively good in the third quarter of games.
Yet they are, and they were again on Saturday night, a post-halftime explosion being the predominant reason why the two-time defending champions are now on the verge of putting the Portland Trail Blazers away.
The Warriors’ 110-99 victory to open up a 3-0 advantage in the Western Conference finals wasn’t the most resilient or convincing of displays. For parts of the first half they were out-scored, out-thought and out-hustled at the Moda Center. However, this is a team capable of racking up points in huge bunches for which the rival defense has no answer. When they did it again here, it turned the game on its head.
The Blazers were feeling good about their chances when they went into the break holding a 66-53 advantage, but they were up against a different opponent after the interval, or at least one with a different mindset.
Golden State dominated the third quarter 29-13, stifling the home side’s offensive threat and finding their own scoring touch in the process. Curry had another exemplary game in the absence of the injury-stricken Kevin Durant, pouring in 36 points — including six 3-pointers.
It was earlier this season that the Warriors scored 49 points in a single quarter against the San Antonio Spurs. That was a third quarter. In 2015, Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a quarter. That was a third quarter. In Game 2, Golden State broke the Blazers’ backs with a surging run and you can guess when it happened.
Same again here.
Thompson proved to be an able deputy once more, adding 19 points, while Draymond Green chimed in with 20 in addition to 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his seventh career playoff triple-double. Damian Lillard had spoken of his desperation for Portland to protect its home court, but he struggled his way to an inefficient 19-point haul, while C.J. McCollum led the hosts with 23.
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Neither were able to stem the tide when it began to spin away from them in the third. And so the Warriors keep chugging along, with just one more victory now separating them from a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. Was it really just 10 days earlier when Durant went down in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets and their entire campaign seemed in limbo? Right now, Kerr’s biggest dilemma is figuring out what to do with the stretch of downtime they’ll face if they polish off Portland on Monday night.
The problem with the Warriors being so good in the third quarter is that they are also pretty darn good in the fourth. The Blazers were suffering the effects of a frenetic night’s work by then and had no appropriate answer. Golden State extended their advantage steadily, Curry in control throughout, and by the end the margin was every bit as easy as it looked.
Before long the seats were virtually empty, the home fans slipping off into the night, much like their team’s hopes in this series. The Blazers have been able to hang with the Warriors for long periods; it hasn’t been a steady drip of woe. But at the times they haven’t, when the Warriors have pushed the magic button, it has been clinical, awe-inspiring — and truly decisive.
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno.