The Western Conference Finals start tonight in Oakland and our staff gives a quick preview as to what to expect in the series.
Do the Blazers have a shot in hell against the Warriors?
Kevin Nesgoda: Everyone has a shot. Weirder and more improbable things have happened in sports. Vegas is giving the Blazers about a -290 going into the series. The Blazers are however playing with house money. They were the popular pick to fall out of the playoff picture coming into the season, they were supposed to be swept by whoever they played in the first round after Nurkic went down, they were supposed to be cast aside by the Nuggets in the second round. Yet, here the Blazers stand and there is no Kevin Durant for the first two games of the series.
Charlie Folkestad: Yes. As a team, Portland has already been through hell and back. One year ago, they were getting swept in the first round by the sixth seed. Fast forward to now, and against all odds, the Trail Blazers have dominated the Thunder and eked past a strong Denver squad in seven games. Portland is the only backcourt in the league that can keep pace with the Warriors, and a Kevin Durant injury could help the Blazers steal a road game early.
Chris Meirose: Anything can happen, and that’s why they play the game(s). But in reality, I say no. Just too much talent on the GSW roster – even if Durant misses a game. If he misses the series get back to me, but even then, I’d say chances are marginal at best.
Ryan Shea: I think the Blazers can compete against the Warriors. One of their signature wins earlier in the Season was a victory against the Warriors at home right before the all-star break. They continued to rattle off win after win and really hit their stride after that victory. It’s only fitting to come full circle and face them again.
Taylor Bartle: At the series? Ehhhh, probably not. Dame can’t play like he did in game 7 of the Denver series if they are. If they had Nurkic healthy I think the odds might go up, especially with Boogie on the shelf. They are really going to need guys like Leonard and Collins to get down low and bang.
How much does Kevin Durant’s injury matter in this series?
Kevin: It sounds like he is going to be out the first two games and that could be just enough for the Blazers to at least split the games in Oakland. It might not matter much once KD returns, but a little confidence can go a long way.
Charlie: Not as much as you’d think. Durant will likely only sit for two games (if that), and the Warriors were still able to close out the Rockets series without him. Also, the Warriors went 67-15 and won a title four years ago with this same starting lineup (and Iguodala and Livingston), other than Kevin Durant replacing Harrison Barnes.
Chris: Depends on how long he is out for and what he looks like coming back. If they win game 1 and 2 without him, it really changes the dynamic as well.
Ryan: Some say the Warriors play better without Durant but it will force them to play a different style of ball and rely on their depth. Considering their injuries that could hurt them in a long series.
Taylor: Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the world. I said it. Yes, the Warriors played better without him in the Houston series but that’s because they changed their game when he was there. For whatever reason, Kerr feels the need to iso KD exclusively against the Rockets. I still think the Warriors are a bigger threat with him.
Outside of Dame and CJ who is going to be the most consistent Blazer?
Kevin: I would say Rodney Hood, but he’s day-to-day with a knee injury. That would move the line down to Mo Harkless or Zach Collins. The Blazers need to have a consistent third option or this is going to be an extremely short series.
Charlie: Enes Kanter. So far he has been able to deliver 12.9 points per game and 10.6 rebounds in the postseason—against better players than Andrew Bogut or Kevon Looney. While Rodney Hood and—recently—Evan Turner have looked impressive, Portland will have to win the battle down low when Kanter is on the floor to have any chance in this series. His ability to guard the pick-and-roll will also be a factor yet again for Portland defensively.
Chris: Zach Collins. He’s probably the best story of the year for the Blazers and so many haven’t heard it yet. Maybe he’ll get some additional focus during this series so more people will know of him.
Ryan: This might not be the most consistent Blazer, but they need to get the most out of Evan Turner this series. If I’m putting bets on the most consistent I’ll go with Mo Harkless. He’s likely going to be spending time guarding both Klay and Curry.
Taylor: Have Dame and CJ even been consistent? The Blazers are getting production from a myriad of sources but I don’t think any one player has been incredibly consistent. They will need Lillard to be Dame Dolla and CJ to really try, Jennifer, and will also need production from their bigs.
Who do you think the Curry family is going to cheer for more, Steph or Seth?
Kevin: Steph is the oldest and therefore the obvious favorite. I don’t care what Mama and Papa Curry have to say.
Charlie: In Oakland—Steph. In Portland—Seth.
Chris: Steph. Everybody loves a winner. Even mama.
Ryan: They have to be excited both kids are in it and simply rooting for each player to perform well.
Taylor: “Wardell, let your brother win once in a while.”
What is your prediction for the series?
Kevin: I really want the Blazers to make this a series. I think if the Blazers can take advantage of Kevin Durant being out with an injury and a banged up Steph Curry they could take this series to six or seven. In saying that, I’m taking the Warriors in six.
Charlie: Portland in 7. [send tweet]
Chris: We may need to have Charlie drug tested. GSW in 5 if Durant misses only 1-2 games. Otherwise GSW in 6.
Ryan: I predict the Blazers fall short, 4-2.
Taylor: I think the Blazers only win one. I’d love to be wrong.