The Best Of The West
The universe has a funny way of handling things.
What a difference a year makes right? This conversation happened on CJ McCollum's podcast after the Finals, and the reigning MVP made it clear that he doesn't believe the Trailblazers were competing for a championship. Nearly 300 days later, McCollum and the Trailblazers have the chance to make KD and the Warriors eat their words.
The case for the Warriors
It's pretty apparent here. They are the damn Warriors. Even without Durant, the Warriors proved they are who they say they are by dismantling the Rockets in six, who many believed would be their toughest opponent. The scariest thing about KD's injury, outside of the possible impact on his future, is that the Warriors look better without him, and their 24-1 record sans Durant cements that. No, the Warriors aren't better without KD, but they are more cohesive, and it should be no surprise. The Warriors won a championship with their brand of basketball before Durant, so they know how to get right back to it. Durant's injury forces the Warriors to play tighter because they don't have the luxury of KD hero ball anymore. Also, we can't forget that the Warriors have thoroughly dominated the Blazers in the playoffs, and the Warriors 8-1 record against them stamps that.
X-Factor: Stephen Curry
This series will depend on the Steph we get. If we get the Stephen Curry we saw in the second half of game six versus the Rockets, we might be in for a quick series. When Curry is on, nobody over the last five years has had an answer for him. The issue is, especially this postseason, we have seen the bad, inefficient Curry more than we've seen the good one, the Warriors were just blessed to have KD to balance it out. There will be no KD, at least for the first two games of the series, and if Curry doesn't show out, it could spell doom for the Warriors.
The case for the Blazers
No one thought they would be here, except Charles Barkley. I don't know why Sir Charles predicted that the Blazers would win the West, but here they are with a chance to prove him correct. What has made the Blazers so special this postseason has been their ability to close in the clutch, and this series they will need it more than ever. With KD being out, the teams match up quite evenly now, and I believe each game will come down to the wire. This gives an advantage to the Blazers as they might have the most clutch player remaining in the postseason. Do I need to even go on about Damian Lillard?
X-Factor: CJ McCollum
For the Blazers to win this series, McCollum cannot be good, he must be excellent. The Warriors' gameplan will be to key in on Lillard and limit his damage, so McCollum must be ready to step up as he did in Game 7 against the Nuggets all series long. No, he doesn't have to drop 37 every game, but he will need to be in the 20 per game range and continually hit big shots like this one. If McCollum can do that, then Sir Charles prophecy might become true after all.
If McCollum can do that, then Sir Charles prophecy might become true after all.
The Blazers have everything going for them. They are playing excellent basketball. Their stars have been hitting big shots all playoffs, and role players like Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, and Enes Kanter have all stepped up and played significant roles in wins. They are motivated. They are still on a mission to prove the whole sports world wrong after their first-round sweep last season. And most importantly, the Warriors are missing their best player. This all points in favor of Portland to advance to their first Finals since 1992, but unfortunately, it won't be this year. Even without Durant, the Warriors are still a better team than the Blazers. Steph and Dame will cancel each other out, but the Blazers have no answer for Klay Thompson and their best big, Enes Kanter, won't even be able to stay on the floor because of his terrible defensive abilities. The Blazers will make it fun and competitive, keeping the games close, but it won't be enough throughout six games.
Warriors In 6