PORTLAND, Ore. -- Kevin Durant's return to the postseason coincided with the Trail Blazers' exit, as the Golden State Warriors blasted their foe from the first round 128-103 in a game that was never close to being close.
For Golden State, it's all coming so easily, while getting so difficult in other respects. Steve Kerr's coaching career seems to hang in the balance, its fate decided by forces beyond anyone's control. When and if he'll be back from painful complications resulting from a cerebral spinal fluid leak, nobody knows.
For what it's worth, Kerr was with his team on Monday night, before the game and afterward, looking far more sanguine after taking in Golden State's crushing performance.
Of Kerr's postgame message to the squad, Stephen Curry relayed that it was about "the perspective of what we've just accomplished and what we have in front of us. This is one step in the journey."
At least Kerr's team has some time to evaluate and decide. Depending on what happens between the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers, the Warriors will start Round 2 on either April 30 or May 2. That time could prove crucial for a coach trying to regain his bearings through a cruelly unpredictable torment.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have looked overwhelming early in this postseason. They can currently rest on the laurels of a violent kind of sweep, one in which they ceded a lone close game. On Monday, the first quarter was total destruction, an emphatic clarification of Portland's vacation plans.
Golden State's first basket was a harbinger of what was to come. In transition, Curry flipped the ball to Durant, who fluidly dribbled into a wing 3-pointer. It was the kind of play that happens after an established rhythm, the capper to an impressive run. In this case, it just kicked off the festivities.
Before he cooled down, Durant (10 points, 20 minutes) was a force in transition, going 3-of-3 in his eight first-quarter minutes. The Warriors moved the ball crisply, finding Klay Thompson for an early barrage. Passes from Curry kept leading to points, with Warriors players hitting 6-of-6 off his passes over the first two quarters.
Curry wasn't just a conductor on offense. He was in MVP form on Monday night, claiming 37 points in just under 30 minutes of play, the most stylish of which came on two different 2-of-1 opportunities from beyond the arc. The first came at the end of the second quarter and was set up by a behind-the-back dribble and a step-back jumper. The shot sailed over an Al-Farouq Aminu close out, hitting its target as Curry fell to the floor. His second 2-for-1 exploit was at the end of the third, and it might have been even bolder. Curry unleashed this 3-pointer, off the dribble, from beyond 30 feet. He would follow up that splash with a quick drive on the next play, his final score in this short work series.
Draymond Green channeled his inner Steph in this tilt. Relatively reluctant to hoist 3-pointers with Kerr on the bench, Green dropped 3-of-5 from deep by halftime and 5-of-8 for the game.
While Portland's Damian Lillard fought to keep the series going, his backcourt mate CJ McCollum had little to offer, going 0-of-7 with 0 points in the first half. McCollum would go on to hit his first shot with 8:42 remaining in the game, deep within the garbage-time oblivion.
In contrast to the first three games of the series, Golden State's offensive explosion wasn't fueled by a JaVale McGee run. Still, McGee might have provided the night's best highlight, rising up between Noah Vonleh and Allen Crabbe to send home a loud lob.
The dunk was fantastic, but the reaction was better. Curry punched the air like a madman. Andre Iguodala did a full 360 turn. Durant, then sitting on the bench, ran onto the floor to congratulate McGee.
Even substitute head coach Mike Brown was impressed, saying, "It was kind of funny, because Andre was right in front of me, and he turned around and was so hyped and I think he was looking for somebody to give him five. And I wanted so bad to just jump up and give him five and start dancing or something like that, because I was excited too. And I was like, 'You're a coach. Play it cool.'"
This was in the first quarter, but it might as well have been the fourth. The end was near and it was being celebrated.
While Kerr's future remains concerning and uncertain, his team has the tools to weather any storm. With or without the architect of so much success, Golden State remains the most formidable team in this playoff tournament, whether it's Mike Brown on the bench or anyone else. As a certain coach said, this is one step in the journey. For the Warriors, it's almost certain to be a long one.