Thus far, each of the first three games was rather tightly contested until the Warriors made a late run to pull ahead. In Game 1, the Blazers were down just six going into the final period. Following a complete fourth-quarter collapse, however, Portland found themselves staring at a 22 point loss.
In Game 2, the Blazers came out swinging from the opening tip. Despite suffering a 15 point half time deficit, the Warriors quickly evened the score after a third quarter in which they outscored Portland 39-24, and subsequently won by three.
In Game 3, a 13 point Blazer lead was of no concern for Golden State, who came marching back with a 57-33 second half en route to an 11 point victory. While Portland has had their moments this series, they’ve been largely unable to close out games. What do the Blazers need to avoid being swept? And how can the Warriors ensure a 5th straight NBA Finals appearance on Monday night?
Keys for the Blazers
The Blazers have been abysmal in the second half of the last two games, and reports of star point guard Damian Lillard playing with separated ribs doesn’t exactly instill confidence for the remainder of the series either. Lillard has struggled immensely this series shooting the basketball, and while he is picking up five boards and dishing out 7.3 dimes per game, his 20.3 points per game on 32.6% from the field leave a lot to be desired from a scorer of Lillard’s caliber.
Although Klay Thompson has been excellent defending him all series, the Blazers need to look to the pick and roll to create a mismatch for Dame. To free up Lillard, the rest of the team needs to get going as well, otherwise, it’s far too easy for the Warriors to trap off screens and prevent Lillard from getting going. Co-star CJ McCollum needs to have a big game as he’s shot the ball terribly as well. He’s putting up 20.7 points on 37.1% from the field. While his FG% is better than Lillard’s, CJ is shooting just 27.3% from deep to Dame’s 38.5%. If the Blazers’ star guards can get it going, Portland’s energy should carry them throughout the game and not just through the first half.
Keys for the Warriors
While Golden State has fallen behind early in the last two games, they’ve made comebacks with ease due to their ability to pour it on in a hurry. Although many argue that the hot hand is a mere fallacy, the Splash Brothers beg to differ, and can bury consecutive shots from deep with ease. Steph Curry is averaging over 36 points per game this series, Klay Thompson has been great on both ends of the floor, and Draymond Green is averaging nearly a triple-double. Furthermore, the team has had significant bench contributions, and in game three, the bench was a ridiculous 15-21 from the field.
For the Warriors to close out the series Monday night, they’ll need to come out swinging early. Steve Kerr and the rest of the team are excellent at making half time adjustments, but even for a championship caliber team like Golden State, going down by 15 after two quarters is never ideal. If the Warriors can bring some energy off the bench early and Steph and Klay get hot from the opening tip, Golden State should be on their way to their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
Featured image courtesy of Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
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