The Golden State Warriors held the Portland Trail Blazers to three field goals over the final 8:58 of the game on Tuesday, rallying from an 11-point deficit to record a 110-99 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.
With the Warriors up 2-0, despite playing both games without injured star Stephen Curry, the best-of-seven series moves to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday.
Backup centre Festus Ezeli, who never left the bench in Golden State’s Game 1 victory, was the backbone of a strong defensive effort in the fourth quarter.
He added three hoops as the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 after entering the final period down 87-76.
Portland led 95-94 after a Moe Harkless basket with 5:21 to play. However, by the time CJ McCollum converted the Trail Blazers’ next field goal, a short shot with eight seconds to go, Golden State had run off to a 13-point lead.
While the Trail Blazers were going seven consecutive possessions without a point, the Warriors got two baskets from Curry’s replacement, Shaun Livingston, in a 10-0 burst that put Golden State in command at 104-95 with 1:47 to go.
Despite missing 13 of his 20 shots, the Warriors’ Klay Thompson led all scorers with 27 points, a majority of which came on five 3-pointers in 14 attempts.
Draymond Green recorded team highs in rebounds (14) and assists (seven) to complement 17 points for the Warriors, who recorded their sixth consecutive double-digit home win over Portland.
Andre Iguodala (15 points), Livingston (14) and Harrison Barnes (13) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, who overcame a cold start to shoot 46.2 percent from the field.
Damian Lillard had 25 points and McCollum 22 for the Trail Blazers, who shot 44.4 percent for the game. However, Lillard never scored in the fourth period, and McCollum had only one meaningless hoop in the final 5:51.
Lillard hit six 3-pointers and had a team-high six assists.
Al-Farouq Aminu (14 points), Gerald Henderson (12) and Harkless (11) also scored in double figures for Portland, who lost the first two road games in their first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers before rebounding with four consecutive wins.
Mason Plumlee had a team-high 11 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who were outrebounded 48-39.
Down by as many as 17 in the second quarter, and 11 to begin the fourth period, the Warriors got a boost from an unusual source – Ezeli – to close the gap quickly early in the final quarter.
Ezeli had two interior hoops, both assisted by Green, and Green added a tip-in as Golden State scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to close within 87-82.
After McCollum and Allen Crabbe stabilized the Trail Blazers with a pair of hoops to expand the lead back to nine, Golden State immediately countered with a nine-point flurry to draw even for the first time since 3-3 on a Thompson 3-pointer with 6:44 to go.
After never leading en route to a 12-point loss in the first game of the series, the Trail Blazers went up in the third minute this time and held the advantage until almost midway through the fourth quarter.
Portland was equally hot as the Warriors were cold in the early going.
The Warriors missed six of their first seven shots, allowing the Trail Blazers go to up 10-3 barely three minutes into the game.
Then Portland heated up offensively, with Aminu hitting four of his first five shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the visitors go up by as many as 14 en route to a 34-21 advantage at first quarter’s end.
The lead reached 17 in the second quarter and 11 at the end of the third period when Lillard buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Oakland-born guard scored 17 of his 25 points in the third quarter.