The Golden State Warriors produced a scintillating fightback to overpower the Portland Trail Blazers and take a stranglehold on their Western Conference semi-final series on Tuesday.
The reigning NBA champions overturned an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to outscore their opponents 34-12 and clinch a 110-99 win at the Oracle Arena.
The victory gives Golden State a formidable 2-0 lead heading into game three in Portland on Saturday.
With Stephen Curry missing once more with a knee injury, it was left to Klay Thompson to provide the offensive threat.
The 26-year-old had an off night, missing 13 of 20 shots, but came good when it mattered with five three pointers to finish with 27 points.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was pleased with the way his side responded after a slow start which saw them trailing by 17 points at one stage in the second in the second quarter.
“We turned around what was a pretty bad game for us but we had enough time to get back,” Kerr said, citing the defensive performance of backup center Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green.
Green added 17 points with 14 rebounds and seven assists while Andre Iguodala added 15 points from the bench.
“Festus just made things a little tougher on their guards,” Kerr said.
“Between Festus and Draymond those guys did a great job of protecting the paint. But everyone deserves credit, not just those two.
“Andre (Iguodala) kept us in the game in the first half when things weren’t going too well. Klay stayed with it. He had a rough start to the game but really came up huge.”
Damian Lillard topscored for Portland with 25 points, adding six assists and four rebounds.
C.J. McCollum was close behind with 22 points and two assists.
– Lowry buzzer-beater in vain -In Toronto, Miami regrouped superbly after Kyle Lowry’s game-tying buzzer-beater saw the Raptors force overtime at 90-90.
Lowry’s remarkable 39-feet leveler with the final play appeared to signal a momentum shift in Toronto’s favor.
However, Miami regained their composure and roared back with eight unanswered points to lead 98-90 and eventually win 102-96.
The win gives Miami a 1-0 lead in the series with game two coming on Thursday.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra hailed his team’s mental strength after they closed out the win in overtime, bouncing back from Lowry’s spectacular three-pointer.
“Kyle Lowry’s three, as soon as it left his hands, I think everyone in the building kind of had an idea that would go,” Spoelstra said. “From that point on, I was extremely proud of the group.
“To get knocked down on the canvas like that, the air punctured out of your body, to show the mental resolve to come back and take control of overtime — that’s great mental toughness that I think we showed from there.”
Goran Dragic had a game-high 26 points for Miami.
Dwyane Wade finished with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists while Joe Johnson added 16 points and seven rebounds.
For Toronto Jonas Valanciunas scored a team-high 24 points and 14 rebounds while DeMar DeRozan added 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Terrence Ross scored 19 points off the bench.
Lowry’s three-pointer was a rare moment of class amid a disappointing display which saw him finish with only seven points.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey is adamant the Toronto talisman can come good.
“Even though he didn’t shoot the ball well, he was effective down the stretch,” Casey said. “He got stuff done. I thought his bulldog tenacity set the tone for us defensively. We know he’s not shooting the ball well, he’s not making plays with shots that he normally makes.
“But we have to believe in him, we do believe in him, and he’s going to come out of it.”