Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3)
We have finally arrived at the conference finals, and while most NBA fans expected the Golden State Warriors to be here, not a lot could’ve predicted that the Portland Trail Blazers would be here. The Blazers have been a perennial one-and-done team in the playoffs, being bounced in consecutive years in the first round. But Portland outperformed Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and they took care of business against the surging Denver Nuggets.
While the Warriors looked beatable in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, they imposed their dominance in the second round against the Houston Rockets, who many thought had the best shot at beating the Warriors.
The Warriors and Blazers split the season series with two games apiece. In the most recent regular season game, the Blazers blasted the Warriors 129-107. While Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Damian Lillard had 29 points and eight assists. However, that was before the Blazers lost Jusuf Nurkic.
Durant will be out tonight and could miss Game 2. For the Blazers, Rodney Hood is questionable.
Series TV Schedule
Game 1: Tues, May 14 Portland at Golden State, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Game 2: Thurs, May 16 Portland at Denver, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Game 3: Sat, May 18 Golden State at Portland, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Game 4: Mon, May 20 Golden State at Portland, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Games 5-7 TBD if necessary
Golden State Warriors Starting Lineup
*Durant is out for Game 1. Look for Golden State to start Andre Iguodala
Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup
Key Player Matchups
PG: Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard
Edge Even. This may raise some eyebrows, but I’m calling this one even. Steph is Steph and he’s going to find a way to get his shots. Curry is a much-improved defender than he was when the narrative was written on him saying otherwise years ago. However, Dame has been insanely great in the playoffs unless he gets doubled or trapped, and the Warriors don’t typically like to defend that way. Lillard loves one-on-one coverage so expect fireworks in this matchup.
SG – Klay Thompson vs. CJ McCollum
Edge Warriors. This is another close matchup, but Klay can shoot the lights out and make life difficult with his defense on the other end. McCollum is coming into this series with some momentum after that huge Game 7 victory over Denver, so look for Steve Kerr to try to keep him under wraps with Thompson.
SF – Kevin Durant/Andre Iguodala vs. Mo Harkless
Edge Warriors. Against Iguodala, this is an even matchup. He and Harkless are very similar players who excel on defense and are the beneficiaries of open shots or wide open lanes when the defense collapses on the shooters. When Durant comes back, the matchup will be interesting, because Harkless has the length and speed to keep a hand in Durant’s face but in the end it really isn’t close.
PF – Draymond Green vs. Al-Farouq Aminu
Edge Warriors. Neither player really lights up the points column, but Green has been a bit more consistent than Aminu has been so far. There’s also all the intangibles Green brings to the Warriors.
C – Andrew Bogut/Kevon Looney vs. Enes Kanter
Edge Portland. Bogut basically serves as a floor spacer, but he doesn’t have the speed Cousins had to beat most bigs off the dribble so he won’t get a ton of minutes. In fact Kevon Looney could get the start here. Kanter has been important to Portland’s run, especially with the loss of Nurkic. In the series against the Nuggets, he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds a game. Portland will need another big series from Kanter.
Coach: Steve Kerr vs. Terry Stotts
Edge Warriors. This can’t be much of a surprise. While Stotts is a solid coach and has done very well, especially considering he lost one of his top three players and had to deal with injury to another, Kerr is one of the best coaches in the Association. His ATOs and adjustments between games are top notch.
Bench: Edge Warriors. Portland’s bench has been their weakness. Last round was better with Zach Collins and Rodney Hood coming up big, but Hood is doubtful. Portland will also look to Seth Curry for scoring. The Warriors’ bench has played well. Shaun Livingston, Looney, and Iguodala (once Durant comes back) make for a tough second unit. They all have championship experience, so they’ve been here before.
Andre Iguodala – If Iguodala can play the solid defense he’s been known for and contribute on offense more than he has in the offseason so far, that could go a long way toward keeping the Warriors ahead in this series early while Kevin Durant is out. If Iguodala and the Warriors struggle, the last thing the Warriors would want is to lose a game at home and allow Portland to build momentum as the series shift to Portland for Games 3 and 4.
Bench – The Blazers cannot beat the Warriors in a seven-game series by relying solely on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They need more help and specifically off the bench. If Zach Collins can have another good series, and Seth Curry is fired up by having his chance to get to the NBA Finals for once, Portland certainly increases their chances.
Warriors in 6. If not for Kevin Durant being sidelined tonight and possibly for Game 2, I might give this to the Warriors in five. The Blazers are the team everyone roots for in this series. It’s like the little engine that could, but the Warriors and the talent disparity they present will be too much of a challenge to overcome. I give Portland two wins and at least a few games where Lillard goes off on Steph.
For more predictions on this and the Eastern Conference Finals, visit our 2019 NBA Playoff Prediction Roundup.
Odds & Line Movement Links: Vegas Odds (All NBA Games Today)