The Golden State Warriors begin their quest to form a dynasty in the NBA in their first-round playoff clash against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Steve Kerr’s men were denied back-to-back NBA Championships last season by an incredible comeback from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals – to secure a 4-3 series victory.
The Warriors made a statement in the off-season by bolstering their already formidable roster with the signing of 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, giving them a frightening three-headed monster alongside Klay Thompson and reigning MVP Steph Curry.
Golden State were tipped to break their record of 73 wins set last term, but have been forced to settle for in the high 60s. It’s still an incredible feat from Kerr and his men, despite missing Durant for a portion of the campaign.
An impressive surge in March has guided Portland into the playoffs, but they will know the challenge ahead of them is a great one. They have talent on their roster, although Terry Stotts’ men will have to be flawless to overcome the Bay Area outfit.
We’ll now look back at the seasons of both of the two sides and break down how their encounter in the first round of the playoffs will turn out.
Expectations for the club were through the roof at the beginning for the season following the addition of Durant.
Several teams across the league were competing for his signature, but the 2014 MVP opted to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and his outstanding team-mate Russell Westbrook for the Bay Area.
However, they got off to a poor start against their Western Conference rivals the San Antonio Spurs, with Gregg Popovich’s putting in a dominant performance at Oracle Arena, despite a strong debut from Durant.
The response from the Warriors was emphatic, winning 16 out of their next 17 matches. Curry, Thompson and Durant began to click in November, with the reigning MVP finding his best form in a 46-point display against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Golden State’s win included impressive back-to-back wins over the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics on the road, highlighting their toughness away from Oracle Arena.
Although the Warriors continued to be excellent in December, defeats at the hands of quality players thwarted their attempts to better their historical 2015-16 campaign. James Harden and LeBron James, guided the Houston Rockets and the Cavaliers to victories over Kerr’s men.
The Warriors responded to their defeat on Christmas Day with a four-matching winning run, but for the second month on the spin they were beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies. In their first loss Kerr’s men failed to break the 100-point barrier, while their second defeat was due to defensive mistakes.
Once again, Golden State were resilient and bounce back with another flawless set of performance to edge ahead of the Spurs at the top of the conference. Their only poor run came in March, suffering four defeats in six and three on the spin without Durant. Since then they have been flawless and are entering the playoffs on a high note.
Portland’s campaign has been mediocre to say the lead, but they will be able to compete in the playoffs – even with a potential record of under .500.
Their success this term has rested solely on the shoulders of Damian Lillard, who has been outstanding this season, continuing his level of excellence. CJ McCollum has also been impressive in support, although too much has been expected of the duo to perform at their peak.
Lillard got his team off to an excellent start to the season, scoring 39 points in their victory over the Utah Jazz. Alarms were raised against the Los Angeles Clippers when the point guard was limited to 29 points, with his side slipping to an eight-point defeat.
Their first meeting of the term with the Warriors ended in a thrashing. Lillard and McCollum got their side back on track with three wins on the bounce, but that would be the high point of November as defeats began to mount.
December proved to be even worse for the Trail Blazers, suffering a four-game losing streak on the road before enduring a worse run – tasting defeat in six consecutive matches, despite solid outings from Lillard and McCollum.
Their rally since then has been extremely impressive, with the club at 14-21 at the end of 2016. January was a slight improvement as McCollum took centre stage. However, their 2-7 record in February left them well off the pace.
The All-Star break breathed new life into Stotts’ men, while their defensive form took a huge stride forward to ease the pressure on their dynamic duo. Lillard broke the franchise points’ record for a single match with a 49-point display against the Miami Heat, but they will need a lot more of those performances to overcome the Warriors.
The Warriors are overwhelming favourites for the contest due to their potent offensive trio, which should be too much for Portland to handle. Durant’s return to action is timely and he should be at the peak of his powers against Stotts’ men.
In their four meetings this season, Golden State have claimed victory in all of the contests. The Trail Blazers were outplayed in the opening three games, but were only beaten by two points in the last match at the end of January, which will give Stotts and his men plenty of encouragement.
Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, the Warriors appear to be peaking at precisely the right moment to enter the playoffs with momentum. It will be an achievement for Portland to force the series into a fifth contest due to the dominance of Golden State, especially at Oracle Arena.
Lillard and McCollum have the potential to put points on the board, but without the support around them – they will not be able to go score-for-score with Thompson, Durant and Curry.
As a result, backing the Warriors to ease to victory at odds of -3300 with Marathon Bet would be the prudent option due to the overwhelming level of talent available to Kerr.
A whitewash could come into play with Golden State looking to make a statement in their first playoff match – therefore backing them at +140 with PaddyPower for a 4-0 scoreline is of good value.
Golden State Warriors To Beat Portland Trail Blazers
Golden State Warriors To Beat Portland Trail Blazers 4-0