The Trailblazers vs Warriors series has already been written off by most as a dire, lopsided affair. Sure, it pits the greatest roster of franchise basketball in the world against another one who made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Sure, it pits four all-stars against a team without any. Sure, experts all over the media have already written off the Portland Trailblazers, claiming a Golden State Warriors sweep is inevitable. But this (1) vs (8) matchup emanates storylines galore. Like it or not, with the Blazers and Warriors going at each other, we’re in for some intriguing, potentially close (possibly), and definitely fun basketball.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors Series Preview
It’s not often we get arguably the leagues best two backcourt’s fighting it out in the first round. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum fire up no less than 50 points a game on average, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson lying just behind that figure at 47.6. These two pairs love to score, and do so on a night by night basis. They’re all special in their own ways.
Thompson is the most dangerous shooter in the league when hot. McCollum has self-pronounced himself as “the best shooter in league inside the 3 point line” (Mind you, he’s no slouch from behind the arc either with a 0.420 clip.) But the main matchup is undoubtedly between the teams’ most beloved players and point guards: Lillard and Curry.
Jeff Van Gundy once (in)famously said, “If you replace Stephen Curry with Damian Lillard on the Warriors, would we really see a difference?” These are two similar styled players who can flummox defenders by both pulling up from anywhere on the court (40 foot bombs, anyone?) to weeding inside and finding the tiniest of spaces by the rim.
These two make things personal whenever they play each other. In 2016, right after Lillard was left off the all star game list, he bombed 51 points in the Oracle Arena. This year, Curry dropped 35 right back in a trouncing of the Blazers. In the upcoming series, expect either – or both – to shoot lights-out in certain games and be the X-factor for their respective side.
Out of the starting backcourt members, only Klay Thompson plays above average defence. Game after game, we’re going to see four of the very best offensively minded guards in the NBA go at each other, shackles undone.
Although the backcourts lie at a seemingly similar level, the Warriors’ frontcourt is what truly separates the best team in the world from the one that was dangerously close to the lottery. They have arguably the second best player in the world, an offensive demon, to go with the leading DPOY candidate who can comfortably guard all five positions. And that’s just to begin with. In role players like David West and Andre Iguodala, Golden State has a whole wealth of experience to play with – which will prove especially useful due to Portland’s youth. In terms of ability, there’s hardly any competition.
The Blazers have to be particularly smart about matchup’s in the frontcourt. Their defensive heart and soul, Al-Farouq Aminu, is a player that has the length, wingspan and ability to irritate – maybe even suppress – Kevin Durant. Aminu’s defensive win shares rank high amongst the league leaders in that category, and he could be some work for Durant to overcome. The Warriors are known for playing small – their only weakness lies in the center spot – so the energetic and athletic Noah Vonleh could be deployed to feast in the paint.
The Blazers’ star center Jusuf Nurkic is still recovering from a hairline fracture and is listed as a game-time decision, as to whether he will suit up for the Blazers or not. All 280 pounds of the 7 foot 1 Bosnian giant could definitely be very problematic for the Warriors, especially if he goes right back to his previous form. Don’t forget his 28-20-8-5 stat line last month. Nurkic is not scared of anyone or anything. His presence (or lack thereof) could alter the course of this series.
ESPN has the Blazers at a <1% chance to steal the series. In genuine truth, the Warriors most likely see them as a stepping stone towards a title that they have next to no business losing this year. And they may just be that. But stepping stone or not, the Blazers have just the right amount of talent, in the right positions, to maybe cause a scare or two.
As an overall prediction, we’ll see some close and exciting basketball, where the Warriors will prevail more often that not. Lillard and the Blazers will steal one at home, but the series should end with a 4-1 score. However, if Jusuf Nurkic is back in time for game one, and the Blazers somehow steal one on the road, look for this supposedly one-sided matchup to bounce right into balance.
OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 19: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)