Legion of doom: Portland becomes the latest victim of the road Warriors

PORTLAND, Ore. -- On the road in the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors are frickin' giants.

Of everything this team has accomplished over the past five seasons, a number that personifies its dominance is the streak the Warriors extended Saturday night when they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 110-99 to take a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

The Warriors now have 22 consecutive series with at least one road victory. That's already an NBA record, and it might stand for a long time. The Warriors already are flirting with the Chicago Bulls' six championships in eight years and even the Boston Celtics' eight straight titles in the 1960s for greatest-team-of-all-time status.

"It's so hard to win a championship in this league," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "The competition is so fierce, and it's a two-month journey once the playoffs start. You know, they have been to the Finals four times, so that tells you all you need to know about their toughness and their competitive desire."

The Warriors ended LeBron James' personal streak of 33 consecutive road series with a win in the NBA Finals last season. That stat will never be remembered like his eight consecutive Finals appearances, but it is the underlying reason they happened, the guts of how he dominated.

Golden State must win on the road to three-peat, as they won't have home-court advantage in the next round. If the Warriors run their streak to 23, the guts of their four championships in five seasons will be victories such as:

  • Game 4 in Memphis in 2015, during the Warriors' first title run, when they were down 2-1 and Kerr made a then-wild decision to have Andrew Bogut guard Tony Allen, a move that changed the series.

  • Game 4 in the Finals that year in Cleveland, as Kerr stunned all by putting Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup and changing that series.

  • Game 6 in Oklahoma City in 2016, when Klay Thompson made 11 3-pointers to keep the Warriors alive.

  • Game 7 last season in Houston, as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant rained in 3-pointers in the third quarter to destroy an 11-point deficit.

  • Even Game 6 last week in Houston, as Curry scored 33 points in the second half after zero in the first half to crush the Rockets' hopes after Durant's calf injury.

This number is a cornerstone of the Warriors' case for what it represents: soul-crushing execution under pressure, relentless depth and disciplined defense that travels.

That combo is what broke the Blazers in Game 3. The spirit of '77 might still be alive in the Rose City, but the spirit of this memorable Blazers team was snuffed out with Golden State warrioring on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the league.

"I don't think we've been that great in Game 3s over the years," Kerr said, knowing that all but one of their Game 3s have been on the road over the past five years. "That's all we talked about the last two days was we have an amazing opportunity to seize control here. That's what I think this was about -- respecting our opponent, knowing the magical run they have been on, how tough they are to beat in this building, and understanding that this is the game."

Kerr is right: The Warriors were just 10-8 in Game 3s over the past five years heading into Saturday. If you're going to beat them, getting them on your home floor for Game 3 is the time to do it. The Blazers knew this innately, came out with energy and built a huge lead.

But the Warriors applied their honed weapons that have worked on the road over and over and over, vaporizing what was an 18-point first-half lead.

They were smothering defensively, holding the Blazers to just 33 second-half points, the lowest for any half in a playoff game during the streak. If you want to see a clinic, watch the game back and keep an eye on Thompson's defense; he never takes a possession off. If you beat him, it's going to be because you're better than him in that moment, not because he let down. He has beaten down the Portland star guards, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined to shoot 12-of-38 on Saturday.

Golden State had great teamwork on offense. Even though they didn't shoot the 3-pointer well -- they made just 8-of-26 of them -- the Warriors had 27 assists on their 41 baskets and just 13 turnovers. Go back over the annals of their road wins and you will repeatedly see these sorts of ratios. Draymond Green, who is handling the ball more with Durant out and everyone bumped up in line, had 12 assists in yet another brilliant all-around game.

Then there are the role players. Over the years, it has been Bogut, David Lee, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Matt Barnes and the like who have delivered when badly needed on the road, where role players often struggle.

On Saturday, it was Jordan Bell -- a player the Warriors were so frustrated with a couple of months ago that they suspended him for breaking team rules to try a last-ditch effort to get through to him -- who was a role player hero.

When it's all over and the Warriors have been broken up, retired or just have a down year, all of these games will be a blur. This particular Western Conference finals will probably not even be distinguishable among all these other big series.

But the streak will endure. Or, at least, it should. Even if it ends in the next few weeks and the Warriors don't win the title, it's just that damn impressive. No one team has ever ruined the nights of so many home fans every spring across the country, an outcome this team just loves.

"You don't win without that competitiveness," Curry said. "And that killer instinct."