The Portland Trail Blazers are in the Bay to take on the Golden State Warriors with hopes of tying up the series 1-1 before heading back to Portland. The Warriors won game 1 116-94, but I would not say it was that much of a blowout throughout. Golden State was clearly the better team all game, but they only led by 6 going into the fourth quarter with each quarter being decided by only 5 points or less until the 16 point win in the fourth quarter.
Adjustments are the name of the game in the NBA Playoffs and I am really curious to see how many adjustments the Blazers make moving forward. The issue for the Blazers is that they just don’t play the style of basketball that seems to give the Warriors problems, especially the Warriors without Kevin Durant. Yes, this Warriors team might match up better vs. the Blazers because of the style of play. I have seen a lot of talk about how much Kevin Durant does or does not matter to this team and the answer is much more complicated than people think. The Warriors play better basketball without KD, probably the best basketball I have ever seen. It starts with off-ball movement and for whatever reason, I think that the Warriors get a little lazy when they have Durant on the floor. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are both elite at getting separation on off-ball screens and running around all game. In his two MVP seasons, Steph ran around the court WAY more than he does post-KD acquisition and this is why they look different. Now, I won’t say that Durant makes them worse, but I used to love watching Golden State pre-KD much more than I do now because it’s a worse quality of play, even though they likely execute at a higher rate because of the increase in talent level.
Now, in this series, I think that the old Warriors are able to take advantage of Portland’s deficiencies more than the KD Warriors. This is because the Trail Blazers lack elite defenders at all positions and that forces the Blazers into a lot of awkward situations and the increase in screening and off-ball movement only makes it more exploitable. In game 1, we saw the Blazers get exposed because they were defending guys like Draymond and Looney by keeping their primary defender in the post because they can’t shoot too well. The issue is that those players set screens for Thompson and Curry and there is no help to stop them from making everything. I think that the Trail Blazers’ players are going to advocate for changing this strategy, but they are doing it for a reason. Switching Enes Kanter onto Steph Curry isn’t going to work either. I think that their best hope is to run out a very “switchable” lineup that includes more Zach Collins, who may be their best overall defender. The issue with this is that Kanter is definitely a better offensive player than Collins and the Blazers only scored 94 in game 1 with Kanter playing 30 minutes.
The other issue for the Blazers is that their two best players both really struggled in game 1 and they need them to both step up. In game 1, we saw Steph Curry defend McCollum 31 possessions and Lillard 9 times, this means that we need to see CJ take way more than the 12 shots and maybe even try to draw fouls on Steph. Steph is undersized as a defender, but he’s not a horrible defender like a lot of people assume. Steph plays really hard on defense to make up for this and it does really allow guys to get him in foul trouble. Getting Curry off the floor would be a major win for the Blazers and it is something that I would try.
Warriors Win Lower Scoring Game 2
The Warriors are -7 in this game and I do really like that number. Golden State is the better team here and I think that 7 is fair. I think that the Blazers make significant adjustments, but I think that the Warriors are able to counter those relatively easily. Based on Terry Stotts postgame interview, I’m not even sure that he wants to make that many changes, which I think does bode well for Golden State. The over/under here is 219, which is something I would normally stay away from, but I do really like the under here, especially if we see the Blazers use Collins over Kanter more. To put that total into perspective, a 219 total means an average quarter over 27 points for each team. Of the 8 quarters in game 1, there was only one quarter over 27. Especially if I think that the Blazers will switch up their defense and probably attempt to lessen the 50% 3-point shooting, I will take the under 219 here.