The Warriors’ first round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers started with a brash proclamation from Blazers’ star point guard Damian Lillard. “Blazers in six,” the Weber State product casually remarked to the surrounding throngs of reporters, predicting that he and Portland would dethrone the reigning Western conference champs and owners of the NBA’s best record. Considering that the Blazers barely squeaked into the playoffs and that trade deadline acquisition and starting center Jusuf Nurkic was out with a foot injury, Lillard’s forecast seemed inaccurate, to say the least.
Yet, at the start of the fourth quarter the score was tied 88-88 and it looked like Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and their plucky Blazers squad had a chance at the upset. Then Draymond Green showed why he just might be the most versatile (and maybe most underrated) player in the NBA, Kevin Durant showed the world he was 100% healthy, and Stephen Curry quietly amassed 29 points.
The significance of this game, however, doesn’t center around the Warriors. It’s that the Trail Blazers played a great game, and gave themselves an opportunity to win- but they couldn’t. Lillard and McCollum combined for 75 points, but couldn’t drag their team to the finish line. It’s unrealistic to expect Lillard and McCollum to put up that kind of production over the course of a seven game series, but even if they could, Golden State has shown that they can weather the Portland backcourt’s deluge of scoring and respond in kind. Portland’s depth is another issue- only two other Blazers players, Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner, scored over ten points (11 and 12, respectively). After that, the remaining six players on Portland’s roster scored only eleven points. Even if Nurkic returns in time for the next game, Portland still has to be very concerned about the team’s lack of scoring ability.
Though much can happen over the course of a playoff series, Golden State’s performance against Portland shows that they have this matchup under control. Lillard and McCollum brought their A game to the first contest, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the Warriors. The Blazers simply don’t have the right personnel to combat the defensive and offensive versatility of Golden State, and it’s unreasonable to think that their star duo of guards can will the underdogs to victory. Portland is a good, young team with a lot of promise, but they’re still a few years and a few pieces away from being a true threat in the West. This series is the Warriors’ to lose, and barring any major setbacks, it looks like Golden State will waltz into the second round with an easy victory under their belt.
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