Portland Trail Blazers facing ‘must-win’ vs. Golden State Warriors after digging 0-2 hole in NBA playoffs

OAKLAND — His teammates had long cleared out, leaving behind a few support staff, a couple of locker room attendants, one television camera and three audio recorders in the Portland Trail Blazers‘ locker room at Oracle Arena.

And as Moe Harkless sat in front of his stall, recounting the grimy details of a night he’d rather forget, he was asked to look ahead to Game 3 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

“It’s a must-win game for sure,” Harkless said. “If we want a chance to win this series, we have to win Game 3.”

The Golden State Warriors steamrolled the Blazers 110-81 Wednesday night in Game 2, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and sending a shiver of desperation back to Portland.

The Warriors played without Kevin Durant, who was sidelined with a strained left calf. Klay Thompson had another ho-hum offensive performance. Stephen Curry was more effective than All-Star.

And the Blazers still trailed by as many as 34 points in a game that was as hard to watch for the rabid Rip City fan base as it was lopsided. The Warriors neutralized Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, stalled the Blazers’ high-octane offense and enjoyed a surplus of contributions from up-and-down the roster in a dominant performance that showed why they are the favorites to win another NBA championship.

“These dudes are battle tested,” Evan Turner said, “and they go on runs and if you don’t come out and do what you need to do and play damn near perfect versus them, they can make a lot of things happen.”

They certainly did Wednesday night. While Curry (19 points, six assists, six rebounds) and Thompson (16 points) were up-and-down, their counterparts were all over the place.

JaVale McGee was a force on both ends in just 13 minutes, alley-ooping and shot-blocking his way into a spot at the postgame podium. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks, while making all seven of his field goals, as he feasted against a Blazers team leaning on an undersized lineup in the absence of injured center Jusuf Nurkic.

Rookie Patrick McCaw started in Durant’s place and was unfazed by the moment, playing sturdy perimeter defense and contributing nine points and five rebounds. Draymond Green wasn’t as dominant as he was in Game 1, but he did a little bit of everything, registering six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals, and Zaza Pachulia (10 points, four rebounds) and Ian Clark (13 points, five rebounds) were two of five Warriors to reach double-figures in scoring.

“We feel like we have a very deep team and we needed that tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We needed every guy, and they came through.”

While the Warriors’ offense showcased its depth and potency, their defense was perhaps even more impressive. Golden State harassed and hounded Lillard and McCollum all night, sending waves of defenders at them and daring anyone else to beat them. It worked to perfection. Lillard and McCollum kept the Blazers in Game 1 with breathtaking individual play, combining to score 75 points. In Game 2, they couldn’t muster a third of that production.

McCollum scored just 11 points on 4 of 17 shooting; Lillard finished with just 12 points on 5 of 17 shooting. As a team, the Blazers shot 33 percent, including 21 percent from three-point range, and committed 19 turnovers.

“I felt like we were both surrounded by two and three guys each time we got past our defender,” Lillard said. “And we know that’s how they’re going to try to defend us. They’re going to make it hard on us.”

And things aren’t going to get any easier for the Blazers, who head back to Portland facing staggering odds. Historically in the NBA playoffs, teams that have faced a 2-0 deficit have gone on to win a series just six percent of the time. 

And while the Blazers are one of those teams — Portland beat the Clippers after trailing 2-0 in the first round last season — this is a little different. The Warriors are the best team in the NBA, have punked the Blazers by double-digits in consecutive games and just won with Durant sitting to the bench.

So as Harkless sat in that mostly empty locker room Wednesday night, faced with the very real chance he might not return to it again this season, he could only take solace in one thing: This is hardly the only time the Blazers have faced adversity this season.

“Look at the way our season went,” he said. “Our back was against the wall at the end of the season and we rallied and found a way to make it to the playoffs. I think right now, it’s similar. Our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to rally and try to figure out a way to come back and make it a series.”

Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman

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