The Western Conference Finals have been set: The first seed Golden State Warriors will take on the third seed Portland Trail Blazers. Golden State is seeking their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance, while Portland is in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2000.
This series will feature a matchup of arguably the league’s two best backcourts, as well as the Curry brothers going head to head.
Golden State Warriors
In a series that went six games, the Warriors knocked off the Houston Rockets in the semifinals on the road, 118-113. After being held scoreless in the first half, Steph Curry exploded in the second, scoring 33 points. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala were also huge, scoring 27 and 17 respectively.
However, the Warriors lost a major piece in this series. Kevin Durant went down with a right calf strain in Game 5, and could be out for most of the series against Portland. Durant has been on an incredible run this postseason, averaging 34.2 points per game.
Without Durant, the Splash Brothers will have to carry more of the load for Golden State. Draymond Green will have to take on more scoring as well, despite already quietly averaging a near triple-double in these playoffs.
While KD’s injury is a tough break for the Warriors, the Western Conference Finals are familiar territory for them. They were able to make up for Durant’s scoring in Game 6 against Houston, but it could become more difficult against Portland.
Portland Trail Blazers
After losing in the first round the last two seasons, the Blazers have finally gotten over the hump, beating Oklahoma City in five games, and Denver in seven. While Damian Lillard was the star of the Thunder series, shooting guard CJ McCollum scored 37 points in Game 7 against the Nuggets, including multiple clutch baskets.
With big man Jusuf Nurkic out with injury, several players have stepped up to aid Portland’s star backcourt. Enes Kanter, Rodney Hood and Zach Collins have all had strong performances in the Blazers’ two series so far.
Portland’s eighth ranked defense in the playoffs will be put to the test against Golden State. Production out of Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu will be key in matching up with Green and Iguodala on the defensive end.
Golden State vs. Portland is going to make for an exciting series, especially on the offensive end. The teams have split the season series at two games a piece.
Each team has a stellar backcourt, with Portland’s having a chip on their shoulder to prove themselves on the big stage. Lillard and McCollum vs. Curry and Thompson will provide no shortage of explosive offense.
If Durant is able to come back this series, Golden State can wrap things up easily. If not, the Western Conference Finals could be more competitive than expected. Either way, the Warriors are still the deeper, more experienced team, and are poised to advance to their fifth straight NBA Finals.
Golden State in six
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.