Portland and Oklahoma City will square off in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Blazers have made the playoffs since the 2013-2014 season. The Thunder have been in the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season. A season of missing the playoffs (in 2014-2015) snapped a five-year streak. Then, the Thunder returned to the playoffs the following season.
Last year, both teams lost in the first round. The Blazers lost 4-0 to the Pelicans and the Thunder lost 4-2 to the Jazz. This year both teams want to redeem themselves. However, this means one of them must lose. One of them will advance to the next round. On the other hand, the other loses in the first round for two consecutive years. The Blazers and Thunder are two competitive teams with last year in mind. This should lead to a good series between them.
The Blazers are the third seed of the Western Conference. They had a record of 53-29 in the regular season. The Blazers are a talented team led by Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 25.8 points and 6.9 assists in the regular season. He also averaged an impressive 34.8 points and 7.8 assists against the Thunder this season. Lillard is one of the most talented guards in the league. He is also a part of a skilled backcourt alongside C.J. McCollum.
McCollum averaged 21 points in the regular season. He averaged 19.8 points in four games against the Thunder. If the Blazers want to win this series, Lillard and McCollum must play well. The Blazers can also benefit from Enes Kanter. Kanter played for the Thunder before he was traded to the Knicks. Kanter will benefit the Blazers because of Jusuf Nurkic’s injury. Over two weeks ago, Nurkic suffered a compound fracture in his left leg. The injury required surgery and there is no timetable on his return. Kanter gives the Blazers a post presence while they are without Nurkic. The Blazers have what it takes to win the series and Lillard, McCollum and Kanter could be the answer.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the sixth seed of the West. They finished their season with a record of 49-33. They are led by Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Paul George averaged 28 points and 8.2 rebounds, which has made him an MVP candidate. He has averaged a career-best in points this season and was the Thunders’ go-to player. He played well and helped his team make the playoffs. George was listed an day to day due to a shoulder injury, but is expected to play in Game 1.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double in the regular season. He averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists. This was Westbrook’s third straight season averaging a triple-double. This was his lowest points average since 2014, but his career best in assists and rebounds. George took over the scoring load this season, but Westbrook still contributed. The Thunder will need both players if they want to win this series.
This will be a good series where either team can win. The Blazers could take advantage of their homecourt or the Thunder can cause an upset. Both teams want to get out of the first round. It comes down to who wants it more.
The Thunder beat the Blazers 4-0 in the season series. The playoffs are a different story. The Blazers could turn things around.
Overall, this series should be competitive and can go to either team.
Blazers in 6
Featured image courtesy of Associated Press