After a grueling second round, the 2019 Western Conference finals is set. The No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors will take on the No. 3 seed Portland Trail Blazers in the third playoff meeting between these two teams in the past four seasons.
The Warriors were the first team to advance, taking down James Harden and the Houston Rockets in six hard-fought games. They didn’t come out unscathed though, as Kevin Durant went down with a calf strain in Game 5 and could miss a substantial portion of this series. Still, they have plenty of talent as they continue their journey toward a three-peat.
As for the Trail Blazers, they came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets on the road in Game 7 of their second-round matchup, which was the best series the playoffs so far. Now, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will try to do what no team in the West has been able to do since 2014: take down the Warriors.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers
How to watch Game 1
- Date: Tuesday, May 14
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, California
- TV channel: ESPN
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: WatchESPN
- Odds: N/A at this time
Playoff series schedule, results (Series tied, 0-0)
*All times Eastern
- Game 1: (at GS): Tue., May 14, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 2: (at GS): Thu., May 16, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 3: (at POR): Sat., May 18, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 4: (at POR): Mon., May 20, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 5*: (at GS): Wed., May 22, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 6*: (at POR): Fri., May 24, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
- Game 7*: (at GS): Sun., May 26, 9 p.m. — TV: ESPN
Odds and Analysis
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Trail Blazers: When Jusuf Nurkic went down with his gruesome, season-ending leg injury in late March, the consensus was that the Blazers’ season was done. They would make the playoffs, of course, and maybe win a first-round series, but no one expected they would go on a deep playoff run in the crowded West. In fact, when they were matched up with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, almost everyone picked them to lose. And yet here they are, in the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2000, and set for a matchup against the mighty Golden State Warriors.
Warriors: For the fifth straight season, the Warriors have advanced to the Western Conference finals, and they’ll be looking to make it the same number of consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. But their road to a three-peat got a bit more complicated with Kevin Durant’s injury in Game 5 of their second-round series with the Rockets. Now, in year five of their dynasty, they’ll have to rely on the original big three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as much as they did in year one. Perhaps that’s fitting though, with big roster changes, including a potential Durant departure — likely in the summer.
Matchups to watch
1. Backcourts: Without a doubt, this is the most important matchup in the series. Curry and Thompson have been the best backcourt duo in the league for over half a decade, but Lillard and McCollum haven’t been far behind. And in fact, the Blazers’ duo can make an argument that they’ve been better during the course of these playoffs.
With Durant out for at least the early part of this series, the Warriors are going to need big performances from both Curry and Thompson. Likewise, the Blazers will need Lillard and McCollum to show up and match them. If they can’t do that, then the Blazers have little chance in this series, and in fact, Portland may need their star backcourt to even outplay the Splash Brothers.
Whichever team wins the backcourt battle will likely win the series.
2. Kevin Durant vs. his calf: There’s something to be said about the idea that the Warriors are better, or at the very least play a more successful style with Kevin Durant off the court. Over the past three seasons, the numbers show that they’re better with Steph Curry on the floor as the main man versus Durant leading the way.
However, those numbers come with plenty of context. The regular season is different than the playoffs, obviously, and Durant was still playing in many of those games, which means he was out there helping wear down other teams. Plus, those numbers don’t show what sort of lineups Curry was playing against, or how long those spurts were from game to game. That isn’t to say he can’t be successful — that’s not the case — but just to point out that there’s no guarantee you can extrapolate out those scoring margins and apply them to this series.
The Warriors are not a deep team, and both Curry and Klay Thompson have struggled at times during the postseason. As we saw against the Rockets in Game 6, this group can still win without Durant, but it’s going to be a lot more difficult to do it on a consistent basis without his added firepower.
3. 3-point shooting: These two teams have been among the best 3-point shooting squads in both the regular season and the playoffs. Neither bunch fires up that many attempts, but they hit at a high percentage. Golden State leads all teams in the playoffs at 37.2 percent from downtown, and the Blazers aren’t far behind at 35.9 percent, which is the next best mark of the four remaining teams.
While the Warriors are the more talented of the two teams, the gap isn’t that great if Durant is out injured. And in a relatively even matchup, 3-point shooting can be a difference maker. If Lillard and McCollum get hot from downtown and start getting some help from the likes of Seth Curry, the Blazers could make this pretty interesting. On the other hand, if the Splash Brothers are lighting up the scoreboard from outside, the odds of a Blazers victory seem slim to none.
This should be quite an interesting series with Durant’s injury, but the Blazers’ best players are Lillard and McCollum, and that’s not an advantage against the Warriors in the way that it is against other teams. Portland has a chance to make this interesting, but in the end, the Warriors will be too talented and win this in six games.