The Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers will meet up for the 2nd consecutive season in the playoffs. Last year they went toe-to-toe in the 2nd round as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard went shot for shot in a heated series. The Warriors won 4-1 as the young Blazers were no match for the defending champs.
As we enter the 2016-17 NBA Playoffs, much has changed for both teams. The Blazers have a bit of experience under their belts and the Warriors have been to the NBA Finals the last 2 seasons. However, the Blazers are in a bit of trouble if they cannot get Jusuf Nurkic back. The Warriors are now healthy with the return of Kevin Durant and that does not bode well for the Blazers. Without their new post player the Blazers will be forced to rely on Noah Vonleh and while he may cancel out Zaza Pachulia, they need more.
Lillard and Curry will duel it out but the Blazers will need a career series from C.J. McCollum to win 4 games. This season, McCollum and Klay Thompson both averaged 23 points but McCollum’s production will be needed much more than Thompson’s. If C.J. can get, stay hot and force Thompson to focus on the defensive side of the ball, there is a chance for Portland.
The true outcome of the series will take place in the frontcourt. There is no one on the Blazers that can contend with Durant. Durant was mentioned in the MVP race before his injury and while he’s still a step slow, this is why he came to Golden State in the first place. He wants a ring. The Blazers will counter Durant with Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner. Both are great on-ball defenders but there will be too much energy spent fighting through screens for either player to be productive on the offensive side.
The No.1 question is– who will guard Draymond Green? Last season, Green averaged close to a triple-double against the Blazers with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists. The tough task will fall to Maurice Harkless and Aminu. That’s how small the Blazers are. While Green is not the tallest of players, he’s rather agile for a power forward.
However, the bench is where Portland stands a chance. Two straight NBA Finals and the Warriors may have rubber legs. After you get past the Big 4 for the Warriors, there’s not much left besides Andre Igoudala, to be honest. The bench still has viable role players but the Blazers are guided by youth, chemistry and a bit of experience. There’s Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and if Meyers Leonard can find some minutes, he can hit from the perimeter.
All-in-all, the Big 4 for the Warriors are still capable of winning it by themselves and that’s exactly what will happen. Some teams play just to make it to the playoffs while the Warriors play to win the playoffs.
Prediction: Warriors in 4