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3) Portland Trail Blazers
1) Golden State Warriors
This might not have been the matchup most saw coming but it sure will be lots of spectacular plays and wow moments during this series.
The Portland Trail Blazers shocked the world by coming back from as much as 17 to defeat the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 to advance. They come in to the Western Conference Finals shorthanded without starting center Jusuf Nurkic and possibly Rodney Hood for a few games.
The Golden State Warriors might have surprised some people by defeating the Houston Rockets after losing scoring leader Kevin Durant in the third quarter of Game 5. After losing center DeMarcus Cousins earlier in the playoffs, Golden State and Portland may have to go deep in their roster to win this series.
Keys to the series
Out of the teams that the Warriors have faced, Portland has the star fire power to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can’t afford to have off nights if they stand to have a chance against the Warriors.
Defensively, Enes Kanter might be a liability but he has to make that up by dominating the boards and scoring down low. This will force Golden State to make adjustments and cause them to go against their game plan. If Hood can go, it will be an added bonus but Seth Curry and Myers Leonard must play well enough to give the starters proper rest to be able to compete with the Warriors.
On the defensive end, keep the Warriors off the offensive boards. Portland doesn’t really have that defensive hound so contestant shots and playing the passing lanes will be beneficial.
For the Warriors, get the crowd going early. We all know when that crowd at Oracle Arena goes berserk, it’s hard for any team to concentrate or even establish any type of rhythm.
This series will be easiest for the Warriors to attack the basket. As mentioned earlier, Kanter’s not a good defender so the there will be chances to score in the paint. Also, if the bench gives any type of energy and production like they did in the last two games, then it will be impossible for Portland to match them.
Golden State has to do a good job of hiding Stephen Curry on defense to keep him out of foul trouble. Also, make the “others” (not including Kanter, Lillard and Mccollum) have to score by doubling off the pick-and-role. Besides the starting guards and Seth Curry, the Trail Blazers don’t really have any other three-point shooters.
The x-factor for Portland is Al-Farouq Aminu. The importance of being scrappy, hustling, hitting timely shots and playing defense will rest on the shoulders of Aminu. He will be open for the three-pointer often and if he’s able to hit it consistently to make them respect him, then it opens up the lanes for McCollum and Lillard.
The x-factor for Golden State is Kevon Looney. The under-appreciated center will be brought in to cover Kanter. He has to match his intensity on the boards and defensively. Looney will have plenty of open shots from 12-feet out. If the Warriors can get eight or more points from him, it’s an added bonus.
Prediction- The bottom line is, will Cousins or Durant come back? If any of them is able to play, it shouldn’t be close. Portland believes they can beat anybody right now but wishful thinking doesn’t win series. Warriors win 4-1.