Last Updated: 2019-05-14
The Golden State Warriors no longer look invincible. The Houston Rockets proved that giants can bleed for the second straight season, and that, plus injuries, give the Portland Trail Blazers a chance in this series. Portland is still a sizable underdog, but the Blazers are feeling themselves after winning series they were supposed to lose against Oklahoma City and Denver. We’ll see if they can pull off another stunner.
Unfortunately, both teams will be without their best bigs for at least the first game of the series. Portland will be without Jusuf Nurkic for the rest of 2019. Nurkic suffered a double fracture in his lower leg in late March, and it will be months before he recovers. Meanwhile, Golden State won’t have Kevin Durant as he continues to recover from a strained calf that initially looked much worse.
The Warriors hopes of an early DeMarcus Cousins return from a torn quad have been somewhat dashed as he needs at least one more week to recover, while reserve center Damian Jones will miss this game with a torn pectoral muscle but could return later in the series. Portland’s best bench player, Rodney Hood, is a game time decision after injuring his knee in Game 7.
Golden State was originally an eight-point favorite in this game per the oddsmakers. However, the recent injury news has shifted the line away from them and in favor of Portland. The Warriors are now down to -7.5, and that line could move further down as we get closer to tip-off. The total has risen from 218 to 219.5 as sharps expect a barrage of threes in this game.
If you’re a fan of guard play, you’re going to love the first two games of this series. Portland has depended on its guards almost exclusively since Nurkic went down in late March. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum make up one of the best backcourts in the league, and they have played off each other very well in the playoffs.
McCollum took over Game 7 in Denver as the Nuggets sold out to stop Lillard. He didn’t shoot many threes, but his mid-range game was on point, and he was able to get to the paint with ease. Since Klay Thompson is likely to be guarding Lillard, McCollum is probably going to have to create once again. Look for him to be the Blazers leading scorer.
After another uninspiring performance from Andrew Bogut, look for Golden State to play Kevon Looney more in Game 1. Looney received the majority of the minutes in the second half, and he proved that he could capitalize on the open looks that Curry and Thompson create. He went 6-8 from the floor and grabbed four offensive rebounds in 20 minutes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play 25-30 minutes here. Bet his overs in player props.
Of course, the key for Golden State is Curry. When he is locked in, the Warriors are impossible to beat. We have yet to see Curry at peak form this postseason and a dislocated finger suffered earlier in the postseason might have something to do with it. However, he showed what he is capable of in the second half of Game 6 against Houston.
As I said in my series preview, I believe the Warriors are a bit undervalued in this series. Golden State has better guards than Portland, and the Blazers won’t be able to take advantage of the Warriors’ shortcomings in the frontcourt with Enes Kanter hampered by a left shoulder injury. Lay the points with Golden State in Game 1.
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