By: John McCormack
With the Western Conference Finals set to begin Tuesday, we once again have the hated Warriors but this time we have a team who hasn’t been there since 2000 — The Portland Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers are the three seed and they are mostly known (sorta) for being swept in last years first round by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, but believe me this team is out to get it this year.
The Trail Blazers are led by All-Stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and for most of their careers they have been overlooked and considered underrated. But that is far from the truth. All season, Portland has shown that they are for real and are light years better than the team that was embarrassed just a year ago.
What’s different about this season compared to others is that the Warriors actually look vulnerable and beatable. Granted, I thought it was going to be Houston to knock them off, but Portland could actually be that team. I think every basketball fan should be rooting for Portland in this series and here’s why.
Damian Lillard vs. Steph Curry
Lillard hit arguably the best shot of the playoffs thus far and has continued to show up in big moment after big moment, and there is no bigger of a moment than playing and BEATING the Warriors. Lillard is averaging 28.4ppg compared to Curry’s 24.3ppg. Now I know four points isn’t a lot, but just looking at how they have been playing shows a lot. Right now Lillard is playing very confident and with the help of McCollum also playing hard, it’s almost impossible to stop one of them. Watching these two play confident is fun basketball to watch.
I’m not taking anything away from Curry, but right now he’s just not the same. His shot isn’t falling, his defense is still a huge liability, and if his three isn’t falling it’s almost as if the Warriors are playing a man down. Obviously Curry is still really good and gets his teammates involved, but the Warriors need him to hit his shots if they want to win this again. Especially with Kevin Durant out for Game 1, Curry is going to have to play his best basketball or Portland might steal their home court advantage.
Play into that underdog vibe
Just like Portland’s two superstars, the Trail Blazers are constantly overlooked. Play into that! They have shown this season that they can get it done. They were underdogs against the Thunder and were underdogs against the Nuggets, and they won both. Portland is almost always written off every year because of past experiences, but that’s not the case for them right now. They were written off to lose to the Thunder when Nurkic got injured and people thought there is no way they can beat OKC, but they did. The same thing happened when then played Denver. There is no way they can beat Jokic and a Nuggets team who has been solid all season, but they did. So why not repeat it?
Obviously the Thunder and Nuggets aren’t the Warriors and critics are expecting Portland to lose, but I don’t think it’s that clear. The X-factor in this series is Durant and as long as he’s healthy Portland will be underdogs, it’s pretty simple. But with Durant out for Game 1, why not go full steam at them? Lillard and McCollum are not far off from being Curry and Thompson, and I think they’re the second best backcourt in the NBA. Lillard and McCollum have been underdogs their entire careers, but if they win this series they will no longer be considered such.
Pretty straight forward but the NBA needs some change. I was very happy when LeBron went out West because it was supposed to open the gates for the Celtics but that clearly didn’t happen. I was very tired of seeing Warriors-Cavs because of how loop sided it was. Now the NBA needs change. I think Durant is gone this summer regardless, but if Portland actually pulls this off then it shows it this team can be beat.
Now if they lose and Golden State goes on and wins another title then great, it’s what everyone expected. We have a happy ending. Everyone gets their rings, Durant rides off to the Knicks or Clippers, and maybe Thompson says he’s ready to go and he leaves for say Miami. This is what everyone expects. But the Trail Blazers can change everyone’s expectations by just winning four games. If Portland wins then maybe the Warriors stay together, or maybe they stay together but Durant leaves. Regardless of the outcome something big will change, but just picturing a Portland-Milwaukee final sounds fun. It sounds like a competitive six or seven game series between two teams are looking for their first title. Change is good, and the NBA is in dire need of it.
I think this series is going to go six or seven solely on how much heart Lillard and McCollum play with. If Portland is too lose this series than it will be because of Durant doing Durant things and because no one can stop him. But I expect Lillard and McCollum to both out play Curry and Thompson. I’m really excited for this series and you should be to.
John McCormack (Uncle_Mac4)