Regular Season Results:
Golden State Warriors: 67-15 (1st Western Conference, 1st Pacific Division)
Portland Trail Blazers: 41-41 (8th Western Conference, 3rd Northwest Division)
Season Series: GSW 4 – 0 POR
Game 1 – Sunday 4/16 @ 2 pm CDT (at GSW)
Game 2 – Wednesday 4/19 @ 9:30 pm CDT (at GSW)
Game 3 – Saturday 4/22 @ 9:30 pm CDT (at POR)
Game 4 – Monday 4/24 @ 9:30 CDT (at POR)
Game 5 (If Necessary) – Wednesday 4/26 TBD (at GSW)
Game 6 (If Necessary) – Friday 4/28 TBD (at POR)
Game 7 (If Necessary) – Sunday 4/30 TBD (at GSW)
This series looks to be a pretty standard 1 vs. 8 matchup. Even in the loaded Western Conference, whoever wound up with the 8 seed was going to have issues keeping up with the Warriors. The Blazers at their best are an excellent offensive team with an explosive backcourt leading the way and come into this series hot (if not beaten up with injuries), but the Warriors bring the same firepower they’ve had for the last three seasons now. Expect a high scoring series with the Blazers trying to keep up.
How they Win:
They show up and no more than one of their starters gets hurt. Seriously, that’s about it and it doesn’t really require much explanation. This team has four top 20 players in the NBA, including two guys having MVP caliber seasons most years in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green, and the forgotten man Klay Thompson, this team has as many weapons as you could possibly need. Even if their bench isn’t what it was in past seasons, it’s still a strong unit with Matt Barnes, Shaun Livingston, and Andre Igoudala leading the way. Even with a questionable inside game starring Zaza Pachulia Javale McGee, a lot needs to go wrong for Golden State to not get out of this series unscathed.
A couple injuries to Golden State, Shaq gets into Javale’s head and it infects the whole team, and Damian Lillard does this every game:
Although the Blazers face a tough challenge in this round, a series win isn’t entirely outside of the realm of possibility. Over their last 23 games of the regular season, they finished 17-6, with two wins over each the Spurs and Thunder in that span. If Lillard has a couple huge games, CJ McCollum returns from injury at a peak level, and Jusuf Nurkic can get healthy and make some noise in the paint, this could be at the very least intriguing.
Undoubtedly with a series against the Warriors, this series will at times turn into a shootout, and the Blazers have an offense that at its best can compete with Golden State. Not for seven games, but if they can slow it down and control the tempo, match their offensive outbursts, take advantage of bench vs. bench situations, AND still catch a couple breaks, we could see the ‘017 Warriors get ’07 Warriors’d.
Kevin Durant, F
It doesn’t seem right listing a pre-injury leading MVP candidate as an X-factor, but that’s exactly what Durant in this series. After returning for the final three games of the regular season after injuring his knee in February, how Durant reintegrates into this lineup is the most important thing for the Warriors moving into the postseason. If he can play like he did before the injury, this series is over in 5 games at the absolute most. Although his traditional numbers may not necessarily tell the whole story, Durant had a banner year this season, sporting a True Shooting percentage of .651, the highest in a season in his career, and also posted .278 win shares per 48 mins, reaching his highest total since his MVP season in 2013-14. Don’t really need anymore numbers to sum up Durant’s impact, but if he returns at full strength, the Warriors have two MVP’s on the court.
Jusuf Nurkic, C
Somewhat like Durant, how Nurkic returns from his injury, a broken fibula, will be a major factor in this series. Unlike Durant, there is a question of if he will even be able to play, and if it’s worth it in this series. However, if Nurkic is good to go, that adds at least one interesting factor to this series. It seems these days the best way to combat the Warriors’ offensive deluge is with a strong game inside the paint (RIP to the hopes of a Boogie/AD first round matchup here), and Nurkic would give the Blazers just that to offset their backcourt-heavy attack of Lillard and McCollum. Nurkic, who averaged 15 PPG and 10 RPG after being traded to Portland, made a huge impact for his new team this year, and having him healthy and ready to go adds at least one layer to this series.
Warriors in 5
Sorry Damian, not agreeing with your Blazers in six prediction. I member how that approach worked out for Brandon Jennings and the Deer against LeBron in 2013. While I love the confidence and think there are some interesting pieces in this series, I just can’t see a way this one goes any other way. If the Blazers were at full health they may be the firepower to stretch this series to 6 games, but the Warriors are going to be too much for them to handle. No shame to Rip City for going home early here, as there are likely only 2-3 teams that can compete with this Golden State squad over the course of 7 games.