Fun fact: What is the number of times in NBA history that an eighth seed has defeated a one seed? Five times.
The Trailblazers finished the regular season 41-41 to take away the 8th seed from the Denver Nuggets. The Western Conference is just super tough, unless of course if you have Westbrook or Harden, Kawhi Leonard or, have three All-Star players on your team.
The Mid-Major Brothers. (C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard)
In order for Portland to have a chance of winning this series these two have to play exceptionally well each game for Portland. Lillard is having a great year scoring the ball averaging 27-points per game, 5.0 assists per game, while shooting 37-percent from the three-point line. McCollum is also having a great year averaging 23-points per game, while shooting 42-percent from three. In wins this season McCollum is averaging 24.0-points per game, meanwhile in losses he is averaging 22-points per game. Lillard averages 28.8-points per game in wins and 25.1-points per game in losses. Keeping these numbers in mind and seeing if they are achieved in this series can help determine if the dynamic duo in Portland can carry the Blazers all series long.
Don’t Fall in Love with the Three Ball
The three-point line will be a favorable shot in this series. In order for Portland to have a chance in this series they cannot fall in love with the three ball. As a team the Blazers shoot 37-percent from behind the three-point line this season.:
Portland’s top three-point shooters this season:
- Allen Crabbe 44-percent
- Damian Lillard 37-percent
- CJ McCollum 42-percent
- Meyers Leonard 34-percent
Lillard and McCollum have to set the tone early by attacking the basket to open up those three points shots for themselves and teammates. Attacking the basket will also put pressure on the Warriors big men in hopes of causing foul trouble early as the Warriors currently rotate JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia in the center spot. One thing we will see in this series is how good of a coach is Terry Stotts. The Blazers have versatile players that can play the wing. Allen Crabbe (6’6) Maurice Harkless (6’9) Evan Turner 6’7) and Al-Farouq Aminu (6’9) all of these can guard and play multiple positions.
Evan Turner & Bench
The Mid-Major Bros have and will carry the Blazers but they will need help. Turner is the guy. Turner has the ability to handle the ball when Lillard needs a break, and score and make plays for others as well; but his coming off an injured hand so we will see how effective he can be. Guys like Crabbe, and Aminu need to be aggressive and not be too passive and rely on McCollum and Lillard all the time, but instead try to get their own and stay within the game plan.
Will Jusuf Nurkic Play?
Nurkic is your typical European big. Fundamentally sound, good passer, can score, soft touch and plays solid interior defense for a big man. After coming over from the Nuggets Nurkic is putting up some solid numbers averaging 15-points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 2 blocks per game. He is currently sidelined with a fractured leg but based on reports it is a fracture he could possible play through while taking a risk. If he does play, Nurkic will struggle on the defense when Warriors run pick-n-roll action as he may not be as quick to run down the athleticism of a Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry. Nurkic’s ability to score down low and in pick-n-roll satiation will be an added lift for the Blazers on the offensive side.
The Warriors couldn’t have asked for anything more this off-season. Luring Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City after blowing a 3-1 in last year’s Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, is certainly the remedy to ensuring a return to the Finals for a potential third straight season. While the Warriors did sign Durant, he missed a total of 19-games in the finishing stretch of the season. That did not stop the Warriors who won 14-straight games without KD and finish as the top seed in the Western Conference with a record of 67-16. Not quite another recording breaking season for the best regular season record but a content Warriors team looking for revenge.
Durant is putting up 25-points per game this season and the Warriors will need to get him going early. Some of the rust of not playing for a month could factor in the first few games. Durant will be the most rested of the entire team so look for Steve Kerr to allow KD to play heavy minutes as he is not on any minute restriction.
In last year’s finals Curry was not guarding Kyrie Irving for the most part as the Warriors would have him either guard someone else to hide his defense or lack there-off. In this series it will be much tougher as it’s a “pick your poison” or Lillard vs McCollum. If Lillard or McCollum gets hot look for Klay Thompson to take on slowing down the hot hand. With the Warriors having a big four, there is still a supporting cast needed. Ian Clark, JaVale McGee, David West, Andre Iguodala will need to reinforce the tone that the starting unit of the Warriors set in each game. The Warriors swept the season series against the Blazers this year. The average margin of victory was 17.5 while the Warriors maintained scoring 125-points per game in the four games. The Warriors are the better team with much more firepower.
Series Prediction: Warriors in 6 games
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer