The Portland Trail Blazers were without a win in six games decided by three points or fewer heading into Wednesday night. Their hosts, the Golden State Warriors, were 1-4 in close ones. Neither team led by more than five in the entire second half, so as the game headed down to the wire, the question was, which of these two teams that have had trouble closing would get the job done?
In the end it was the Blazers who came out on top, 93-91, with Jamal Crawford scoring his team's final five points, including the decisive free throws with 44 seconds left. It was an unlikely win for the Blazers on several levels. Not only was it their first close win of the season, it also came on the road, where Portland has fared poorly (4-10 coming in). Perhaps most surprising, it came without their leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, who remained in Portland to receive treatment on the ankle he sprained in Tuesday night's loss to Wizards.
The Warriors finished the game without their leading scorer as well. Monta Ellis started, but his effectiveness and minutes were limited by illness. Ellis is fifth in the NBA in minutes per game at almost 38, but played only 27 in this one, sitting out the entire fourth quarter. He scored just 10 points, 12 below his season average.
In the absence of Aldridge, several players stepped up for Portland. Chief among them was Gerald Wallace with 24 points and 6 rebounds. A 28 percent three-point shooter on the season, Wallace made all four of his three-point attempts, including two key ones in the fourth quarter. Nicolas Batum, inserted into the starting lineup just before Aldridge was injured, also had a strong game with 17 points, and Crawford finished with 14.
For Golden State, it was the David Lee show. Lee had 29 points and 11 rebounds, but for some reason the Warriors seemed to forget about him in the fourth quarter. After scoring 25 points on 18 shots through three quarters, Lee had just two field goal attempts and four points in the fourth quarter. With Ellis on the bench and Stephen Curry having a cold shooting night (3 for 10 for 8 points), it was up to super sub Nate Robinson to carry the load in the fourth quarter. Little Nate scored 10 of his 21 points in the final period, but was unable to convert on two possessions with his team down two in the final seconds.
The loss snaps a season best three-game winning streak for the Warriors, and drops them to 11-15 overall, 8-9 at home. Portland gets a rare road win and improves to 14-12 overall.