The Golden State Warriors will attempt to reach their fifth consecutive finals by beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the Conference Finals starting this week. The Warriors have had the wood on the Blazers in their recent match-ups, beating them in both 2016 and 2017.
First two rounds
After being pushed to six games by both the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers, the Warriors will look to up the ante and finish this series in five games if possible. Injuries to DeMarcus Cousins and then Kevin Durant have threatened to derail their bid for a third straight title. Both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have stepped up in Durants absence against the Rockets though. Curry had a mind blowing 33 point second half in game six against the Rockets. While Thompson had consecutive 27 point games against the Rockets, draining 12 threes in the two games. Andre Iguodala also stepped up big-time against the Rockets, he averaged 13 points and four rebounds on 59% from the field and 48% from three.
Conference Finals Individual Match-ups
After shooting poorly from three in both the first and second round, Stephen Curry is due to explode against the Blazers. His 37.1% in the playoffs so far is a career low. With Kevin Durant not set to return for at least three games, look for Curry to take the reins and control the offense. Match-ups as usual will be key in this round. Damian Lillard will go head to head with Curry in this series. After destroying OKC in the first round, Lillard had a slightly quieter series against the Nuggets. Shooting only 28.8% from three, he will also look to bounce back.
Kevon Looney is playing the best basketball of his life, he will look to continue this against the resurgent Enes Kanter. When the Warriors go small and play Draymond Green at center, Kanter will be taken off the floor. This means he minutes when Kevon Looney is at center are key for his team hopes. Both excellent offensive rebounders, Looney’s defense around the rim is also very important for the Warriors.
The Warriors will look to spread the floor heavily against the Blazers. Iguodala has been shooting the lights out from three, this is key to opening up driving lanes for their big men. The second unit will be key for the Warriors and they need to get a return from their bench guys. They can burn Kanter in spread pick and rolls as he struggles to defend the perimeter. Targetting the weak links in this Blazers lineup could win them the series in five or six games.
“The most important Warrior is Steph. You can say KD’s better, you can say KD’s the best player in the league… Steph’s the guy they cannot do without. When KD plays & Steph doesn’t, they win 60% of games. When Steph plays & KD doesn’t, they win 90% of games.” — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/WM7wR4s6nz— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 15, 2019
If Durant doesn’t return for this series, Coach Kerr will need to use an end of bench player. Look for this to be young role players Jordan Bell or Alfonzo McKinnie. Energy and rebounding will be needed to take some of the load from starters who will be playing 40 + minutes.