Last Updated: 2019-05-20
It turns out the Portland Trail Blazers weren’t any match for the Golden State Warriors at all. In my series preview, I dismissed the notion that Portland would be able to knock off Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, but I thought the Trail Blazers would be able to win a game or two. That’s looking increasingly unlikely as the Warriors have won the first three games of the series and can close out with a sweep on Monday night. Golden State is almost guaranteed to make it the to NBA Finals now, as no team has ever erased a 3-0 deficit in NBA history.
The loss of Jusuf Nurkic has really hurt the Blazers in this series. Portland is no longer getting good performances from Enes Kanter, who played just seven minutes because of a banged up left shoulder, and that has meant reserves have had to play more and more minutes.
That has left Portland unable to take advantage of the absence of Golden State’s two best big men. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant are very unlikely to take part in this series now, as it was very optimistic that either player would be able to return to start. Durant is dealing with a strained calf, while Cousins tore his quad last month.
There has been a big shift in the line between Game 3 and Game 4. As we have seen in other series this postseason, once a team goes down 3-0, everyone loses faith in them. Portland was a slight favorite entering Game 3, but the Blazers are now a slight underdog at home after blowing an 18-point lead to the Warriors. Golden State opened at -3, and that line has already been bet up a half point and is likely to rise. The total has remained constant at 219.5.
Portland couldn’t capitalize on a strong first half against Golden State in Game 3. The Blazers led the Warriors 66-53 at halftime, but they could only muster 33 points in the second half and allowed the Warriors to come back and get the win.
Damian Lillard might be out of gas. After being the star against Oklahoma City in the first round, Lillard came back down to Earth against Denver and has been dreadful from the floor over his past four games. He hasn’t shot better than 37.5 percent from the floor, and he sunk just 27.8 percent of his field goals on Saturday and committed five turnovers.
CJ McCollum has been somewhat better, but he hasn’t been able to git going from three-point land. He has made more than a third of his threes in just one of his last five games, and that has limited Portland’s offense. These two must be better in Game 4.
The star for Portland in Game 3 was lanky center Meyers Leonard. After doing virtually nothing for most of the playoffs, Leonard got the start ahead of Kanter and made the most of his time. He went 6-12 from the floor, and he was the third-leading scorer on the team. Another big that can score is just what the Blazers have needed, but it might be too little, too late.
Golden State has rechanneled the memory of its first title back in 2015. That team didn’t have Kevin Durant and relied on Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to create, and we have seen those two do just that. Curry has led the way with at least 36 points in every game, and he is hitting right around 50 percent from the floor. He hasn’t been as sharp as he usually is from beyond the arc, but he has been above average and that’s been good enough.
Draymond Green has been the real difference maker though. He was much maligned in the regular season, and some were saying he was past his prime, but Green’s play has risen with the stakes. Green showed his most complete performance yet with a triple double in Game 3, and his ability to lead this offense and set up its shooters has been extraordinary.
At this point, you can’t go against Golden State. Portland has to be disheartened after the loss, and I think they are ready to fold. Look for Golden State to finish them off in a sweep on Monday night.
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