Why Warriors will win West
Rudy Tomjanovich’s words certainly rang true in Games 5 and 6 of the Warriors-Rockets series as Golden State gutted out two hard-fought victories to close out the series after Kevin Durant’s injury. Now, the early core of the dynasty -– Steph, Klay, Draymond and Iggy -– has proven once again that it’s capable of beating any team in the NBA in a dire situation. You can’t let the Warriors stick around late in games because Curry or Thompson are bound to catch fire at some point. Rockets GM Daryl Morey put it best in his congratulatory tweet: If “you come at the king, you best not miss.”
On the other end of the spectrum, none of Portland’s players has played meaningful minutes beyond the second round in the playoffs. While Damian Lillard and McCollum will never shy away from the moment, the same cannot be said for Zach Collins, an important, young big man who wears his emotions on his sleeve and is prone to getting in foul trouble.
2. Damned if Durant does play, damned if he doesn’t
If Durant is able to go by Game 2 — he reportedly will miss Game 1 — it’ll be lights out in five games for the Blazers. Not only is he leading the NBA in scoring during the playoffs with 34.2 points per game, Durant’s also shooting an insanely efficient 51-42-90 (FG-3FG-FT). Guess how many other players in NBA playoff history have averaged at least 30 points while being a part of the 50-40-90 Club? Two. Reggie Miller and Rolando Blackman each did it for teams that were eliminated 3-1 in the first round. Durant’s still doing it after 11 games! He’s also putting immense pressure on defenses, drawing nearly nine personal fouls per game. The Blazers have no answer for him if he plays.
The Warriors are probably better off resting Durant until they’ve lost two games this series. If they elect to go that route, we’re going to see a whole lot of “beautiful basketball.” Brace yourself for a plethora of “Can’t Play” Kanter GIFs on Twitter because Golden State’s going to put him and Lillard through hundreds of pick-and-rolls and dribble-handoffs, leading to wide-open shots for Curry and Thompson and layups and dunks for others.
3. 2016 Draymond is back
Lost amid Durant’s sustained excellence and Curry’s fourth-quarter explosions has been Green’s return to stardom. Simply put, he’s 2016 Draymond again. He’s back in shape thanks to a planned late-season diet (the unwavering hubris of this team is hilarious). In the playoffs, he’s averaging 13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a block per game. Through his first 11 playoff games, he was outperforming his regular-season stats more than any player in the NBA –- a whopping 123.7-percent of his regular-season production according to The Athletic’s Zach Harper.
Green’s defensive presence will also have a major impact on this series. He’s long enough to contest shots with his massive wingspan, strong enough to battle Kanter and Collins in the paint for sustained stretches and quick enough to switch onto the likes of Lillard and McCollum and make them work as much as any defender could hope to do. When Draymond is playing this way, the Warriors have a defensive upside that few teams have the firepower to match.
Unfortunately for Lehigh’s finest, here’s a couple of reasons the Blazers won’t be advancing to the Finals: One, they’re decimated with injuries -– no Jusuf Nurkic, Rodney Hood is injured and Kanter is banged up. Two, the Warriors are superior to the Blazers at basically every position. Anything McCollum and Lillard can do, Curry and Klay can do a little bit better. Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless are playing well on the defensive end, but the Warriors can replicate their defense with Durant, Green and Iguodala (plus, you know -– they can score).
Also, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Portland has been eliminated by Golden State two of the past four seasons, yet the Blazers still can’t seem to find a couple of wings who can make open three-pointers. How many more years are they going to ignore such a fatal flaw?
5. The Blazers are exhausted
The only real chance the winner of the Blazers-Nuggets series had at going to the Finals was if the winner of the Warriors-Rockets was injured and battered. Well, Durant is certainly injured. However, the Blazers weren’t exactly able to cruise through the second round, going the full seven games, including a four-overtime game in which three of their players played over 56 minutes. Lillard and McCollum have played the most minutes of any remaining players in the playoffs. McCollum still looks fresh, but Lillard looks gassed. He was inefficient as you’ll ever see him against the Nuggets, shooting 41-29-80.
PREDICTION: Warriors in five.
Published at Tue, 14 May 2019 10:56:00 +0000