Warriors To Reach NBA Finals For Fifth-Straight Year?
Simon Sinclair 2019-05-13 in NBA Picks
The Golden State Warriors will lock horns against the Portland Trail Blazers in their bid to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row.
The Warriors had to dig deep to see off the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Golden State and the Rockets went blow-for-blow in the opening four matches of their series, leaving the path of the Conference Finals in the balance.
Kevin Durant’s calf injury handed the Rockets a huge boost in game five. However, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were able to raise their levels of performance for the remaining quarter to guide their side to victory before rising to the occasion once more in game six to drive the Warriors over the line.
The fitness of Durant will be an ongoing storyline for the rest of the playoffs given that his injury looked more severe at the time. Curry and Thompson have carried the team in the past and are more than capable of leading Golden State to the NBA Finals.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Semi-Finals. Lillard took the lead for the Trail Blazers, battling with Nikola Jokic for the opening six games, although nothing could separate the two sides.
Portland needed McCollum to come to the fore in game seven and he produced the best performance of his career to down the Nuggets with a clutch outing on the road. The Trail Blazers will need their two stars to be flawless against the Warriors.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were seemingly in control of their series against the Rockets after the opening two matches. Golden State had been pushed to game six by the Los Angeles Clippers, but they had the momentum against James Harden and company, putting forward two strong performances at Oracle Arena. However, the Rockets were able to push back to level the series as Harden found his range, edging an overtime battle before taking game four with a solid victory.
The scores were almost level in the third quarter of game five when Durant suffered his injury. An opportunity opened up for the Rockets, but Curry and Thompson slammed the door shut, operating at the peak of their powers to close out a narrow win. Without Durant in game six the pressure was on Golden State. However, Curry was outstanding on the road to put up 33 points to take the series in Houston.
All eyes will be on Durant for the series with the Trail Blazers. His injury was only a calf strain, which was a relief given that there were fears that he torn his Achilles. Durant could be sidelined for the opening two games, leaving the onus on Curry and Thompson to deliver once again.
Both men were carrying ankle injuries into the playoffs, although they’ve managed to hold. Durant was the key points scorer against the Clippers and now it’s the turn of the two guards to take over in their duel with Lillard and McCollum. Their experience and quality in the clutch will be crucial for Steve Kerr’s men.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000 with their victory over the Nuggets. Terry Stotts’ men have not been renowned for their clutch play in the post-season during his tenure, but on this occasion Lillard and McCollum were exceptional to see off a spirited Denver side that will only improve in the future. However, Portland’s two stars were on form throughout the series – each taking their turn to put in huge performances.
Lillard has been the consistent operator. It was his last-second three-pointer that drove his team into the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lillard ensured that his team kept pace with the Nuggets before McCollum took the reins in game seven. One display would win the game for either side, and it was McCollum that delivered the series-winning outing.
He nailed 17 out of 29 attempts from the field, notching 37 points in the contest. It included his clutch two-pointer jumper to ice the game in the fourth quarter. Lillard and McCollum have not always been at their best in the post-season, but if they remain at the peak of their powers they have a shot against the Warriors.
It’s a blow that Jusuf Nurkic suffered his late-season injury. Enes Kanter has been an able deputy, although he does not quite offer the same threat. Rodney Hood has been a solid option off the bench, offering double-digit points during the series against the Nuggets. Portland are going to require constant support for Lillard and McCollum to down the defending champions.
Head to Head
Games Played: 229 Golden State Warriors: 104 Portland Trail Blazers: 125
The two sides split their series over the course of the season – both winning matches on each other’s home court. Golden State won the first meeting of the campaign with a dominant victory at Oracle Arena even without the presence of Curry as Durant and Thompson were on top form.
Portland bounced back to snatch the second game in Oakland in overtime as Nurkic top scored with 27 points. Not even a 40-point performance from Lillard could defend home court for Portland as the big three crushed the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center in December.
Without Durant, Portland have a huge opportunity to put the Warriors under pressure from the off. Given that the two-time NBA Finals MVP could miss the opening two matches of the series, the Trail Blazers have to seize their opportunity at the start of the Conference Finals to put Golden State on the back foot. Curry and Thompson were outstanding to send their team into the next round, but it may have taken a toll on them.
Back Portland to come out firing in the opener at odds of 29/103.90+2902.902.90-0.34 with BetOnline to take the victory at Oracle Arena. The Warriors have the quality and the experience to outlast their opponents. It could go all the way to seven games once again, but take Golden State to reach their fifth NBA Finals in a row at odds of 19/1001.19-5200.19-5.200.19 with BetOnline and at a 4-3 scoreline at 7/24.50+3503.503.50-0.29 with TopBet.
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Tuesday 14th May 2019 21:00 EST (Wednesday 15th May 2019 02:00 BST)
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