The NBA Playoffs are quickly approaching, which means it's time for meaningful basketball, where players actually play hard for the full 48 minutes and every basket, missed shot, bad call, or non-call is magnified exponentially to the point where you are led to believe "next basket wins". For many of the lower seeds heading into this year's version of the postseason, they would prefer that "next basket wins" stipulation instead of having to go through the trouble of being run out of the gym and embarrassed by a severely superior team for four or five games.
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As of this very moment, the Warriors are the odds-on favorite to win both the Western Conference at -250 and the NBA Championship at -150. These odds don't surprise me one bit. The Trail Blazers are +10000 to win the West and +25000 to stun the world and capture their cities first NBA Championship. Considering what we know about both teams, I find that highly unlikely to happen. All odds are courtesy of Bovada .
Many so-called "experts" would be quick to say that the Golden State Warriors had a "down" season after posting more then 64 wins for the third season in a row. In my opinion, they were never going to get to 73 wins again, even with the Kevin Durant signing. Last year, the Warriors learned the hard way that what happens in the regular season has no bearing or meaning once the playoffs roll around. Head coach Steve Kerr did a great job at finding the right times to give his players some rest and motivate his guys when they were slumping at the end of February through to mid-March. Nearly a third of their losses came during that two-week stretch.
The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, overcame some early-season adversity with injuries and some tough scheduling. Thankfully for Blazer Nation, the team finished up the season strong, posting a 20-7 record and beating out the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot. Damian Lillard is largely responsible for the turnaround and will need to play out of his mind in order to provide the city of Portland with an upset for the ages.
This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but the Warriors led the league in points per game with a whopping 116.2. They also lead the league in the following categories: field goals made per game (43.2), field goal percentage (49.5), assists per game (30.5), steals per game (9.6) and blocks per game (6.8). Those stats are the main reasons why the Warriors are the best team in the NBA. On an individual basis, the Warriors have four players that average double-figure points, with Steph Curry leading the way at 25.3. Durant checks in second at 25.2, with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green averaging 22.5 and 10.3, respectively. I believe the Warriors are better suited this year on offense with the addition of Durant. That's because despite leading the league in three-pointers last year, Durant's presence allows the Warriors to space the floor even more, opening up the lanes for the like of Curry and Thompson to get some easy baskets on back-cuts.
The Blazers' offense is nowhere near as prolific as that of the Warriors', but it can still be quite explosive on any given night. They average a solid 108.2 points per game, which has them currently ranked seventh out of 30 teams. In comparison to the other major categories the Warriors lead, the Blazers rank eighth in field goals made (39.6), 14th in field goal percentage (46.0), 23rd in assists per game (21.2), 25th in steels per game (7.1) and ninth in blocks per game (5.0). The only category in which the Blazers are ranked higher than the Warriors in is free-throws made/attempted per game.
Individually, the Blazers are led by Lillard, who is averaging 27 points per game on 44 percent shooting, 37 percent from beyond the arc, 4.9 rebounds per game and 5.9 assists per game. Lillard is their MVP, and in order for the Blazers to have any chance at pulling off the upset he will need the supporting cast to step up. CJ McCollum is having himself a solid regular season, posting lines of 23 points, 3.6 assists per game. After him, the drop off is steep, which means the Blazers will be lucky to win one game.
When it comes to the defensive end of the court, neither team has a legitimate defense that can stop the opposition from putting up a boatload of points. The Warriors are ranked 11th in points allowed per game at 104.4, while the Blazers give up 108.7, which has them ranked 25 th. The only legitimate stat that either team could be happy with is in the opponent field-goal percentage category. The Warriors somehow manage to hold teams to just 43.5 percent shooting, which has them ranked first, ahead of the likes of Utah and San Antonio, both of whom are legitimately solid on the defensive end of the court. If you are an old-school NBA fan and want to watch two teams be physical and grind out games in the mid to high 70s, this is absolutely not the series for you to watch. Every game in this series, whether that's four, five or six games, will be a track meet, and the winning team will end up with a score north of 115.
It's almost impossible to imagine a scenario where Golden State is on the brink of elimination in this series. They already swept the season series versus Portland 4-0, while averaging a ridiculous 125 points for and giving up just 105.5 per game. The Warriors have the better squad top to bottom, and that includes the bench players, who are usually the ones to come up big and contribute to the cause. I expect the totals for each game to be in the mid-220s, so I don't see any value in betting this series on a per-game basis. If I had to bet it, I'd go with a correct series score - GSW 4-0, or 4-1 if you're feeling a bit risky.
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