The Golden State Warriors, the favourites for the NBA title, defeated the Houston Rockets 4-1 in the first round. Warriors continued their winning ways, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 118-106 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. The defending champions are keen to take a 2-0 lead with a win in Game 2 at the Oracle Arena on Tuesday.
The Warriors defeated the Blazers without the services of their star player, Stephen Curry, who is recovering from a sprained right knee. The same injury might lead to Curry missing the second game of the semifinals as well, but they have players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to step up.
Thompson and Green were amazing in the first game, with the former scoring 37 points, while the latter had 23. Thompson is one of the best shooters beyond the arc, as was witnessed in Game 1, when he hit seven three-pointers. The player will be keen to make his presence felt in Curry's absence.
Not only has their offence shone brightly in the playoffs, but also their defence, which has helped them become an even stronger team. They do not allow teams to get those easy drive-ins, and score free points.
'It's very important we don't give up just layups early in the game,'' Associated Press quoted Warriors player, Andrew Bogut as saying. ''We're trying to protect the paint and make sure they get nothing easy early.''
The Trail Blazers were impressive in the regular season, and also played some good basketball to set up a date against Warriors in the semifinals. They defeated a formidable LA Clippers in the first round, and Warriors' coach Steve Kerr wants his defence to stand firm against the Blazers, and not lose concentration.
''They're the kind of team, they're going to stay with it. They've got such great shot-makers, they're always going to be on your tail, so our defense has to be locked in for 48 minutes," Kerr said.
One of the biggest challenges the Golden State defence will face is stopping Damian Lillard, who scored 30 points in the last game. Lillard is one of the star players of Portland, and has played an integral part for the Blazers this season so far. If the Blazers want to get past the Warriors in the semifinals, they need Lillard to fire on all cylinders, with support from other players such as Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee.
Lillard believes that they need to start the game on a bright note as Warriors get off to a rollicking start from the first quarter itself. The Warriors took a 20-point lead in the first quarter of Game 1, which made life difficult for Blazers, who outscored Golden State in the second and fourth quarters.
''We've just got to understand that they are a good first-quarter team. We've got to be better from the start of the game. So once we fix that and continue to compete the way we did, we'll have a chance,'' Lillard said.
Where to watch live
Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trail Blazers NBA playoff game 2 is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET (8 a.m. IST, 3.30 a.m. BST) start. Indian viewers can watch it live on Sony Six/HD, with live streaming on Sonyliv.
Viewers in the US can watch the Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trail Blazers playoff game 2 live on TNT, with live streaming on TNT Overtime.
BT Sport will provide live coverage of the NBA playoffs game in the UK, while the game can also be live streamed on Watch BT Sport.
NBA fans can also watch the Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trail Blazers game 2 live on NBA.com.