1 Golden State Warriors vs 3 Portland Trail Blazers
2018-2019 regular season: 2-2
2017: Warriors win 4-0
2016: Warriors win 4-1
And then there were four. The second round did not disappoint. Each matchup had intrigue and delivered in providing an exciting series. The Warriors got by the Rockets in a tough six game series while the Blazers advanced by getting past the Nuggets in what might have been the best series of the second round in seven games. These two teams are no strangers to one another. This will be their third matchup in four years in the playoffs. How do the teams matchup and who will represent the West in the finals ?
The warriors are looking to complete a three peat and win their fourth title in five years.
The title favorites coming into this series having been banged up by this earlier matchups.
Their big free agent acquisition Demarcus Cousins was lost to injury going for a loose ball in the first quarter of game two in the first round series against the Clippers. It got even worse when they lost superstar Kevin Durant to what looked to be an achilles injury in game 5 of their series against the Rockets. The injury came after a jumper and looked to be bad news but was luckily only a strained calf and he should return in these playoffs. Both stars are expected to return this season and could very well play in these conference finals. With Cousins on board they looked to run away with the title but have now lost both Cousins and Durant. It’s been reported that KD will not play in game one which will test Golden State’s depth.
The warriors reached the conference finals after being tested by the Clippers and Rockets. The Clippers surprised everyone by taking the reigning champs to six games while the Harden led Rockets were deemed as the team with the best chance to take down Golden State especially once Durant went down. The championship pedigree showed up and both Curry and Klay came up big to close out Houston. The Rockets were favored in game six being at home but people forgot just how great the splash brothers are since KD had been so good. Their usage of course skyrocketed and they flourished returning to their familiar roles.
The Blazers come into this series after a grueling matchup with Denver in the semifinals. Denver took Portland to seven games and even started out game seven up 17 in the first half but the team led by the tandem of McCollum and Lillard battled back. Lillard struggled in the first half being held scoreless until six minutes left in the second quarter but McCollum carried the team on his back and kept them afloat. A CJ dagger to bring the lead the four secured a berth into the conference finals. CJ carried his squad with 37 huge points while Dame struggled. The series that went to seven games included a game three that went to four OTs which was the first time a playoff game went to four OTs since 1953. In their first round series, they were the underdogs even though it was a 3 seed vs a 6 seed and they had home court. In a battle with OKC, Lillard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, knocking down a stepback three from the logo to send the Thunder home in what was another emotional, draining series.
Portland will face the two time defending champs on only one full day of rest. Luckily for them they come in with most of their team ready to go. They are not 100% though. They lost Rodney Hood to a hyperextended left knee in game seven who had emerged as a big time player during that series, and was the hero of the four overtime game three. He is currently listed as day-to-day and should be good to return for the series. They also,of course lost big man Jusuf Nurkic to a gruesome broken leg injury during the regular season. Hood’s injury is much less severe and should be good to return for the series.
Portland will be motivated to continue their emotional playoff run and lose the underrated moniker. They were counted out in the first round by most analysts but now find themselves four games away from the finals. Lillard and CJ are not often talked about when it comes to the best guards but they have played extremely well in this postseason.
Series breakdown and pick:
The Warriors come into the conference finals banged up but let’s not overthink it. Golden State was a game away from winning back to back titles with the nucleus of Steph, Klay, Draymond and Iguodala. They will miss KD for game one and most likely for game two as well but Steph and Klay are comfortable playing the role of the leaders on offense and should play well with greater focus on them. They showed what they can do with Curry going off for 33 in the second half of game six while Klay kept them in it with 21 in the first half. In two playoff matchups, the Blazers have only managed to win one game and come in with the same core of McCollum, Dame, Aminu, Turner and Harkless from 2017. McCollum and Lillard have been playing incredible basketball plus the Warriors do not have much depth but the battle tested Blazers will not be able to do much to stop the Warriors from advancing to their fifth straight finals.
Warriors in 5