The Golden State Warriors matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the 2017 NBA playoff and this article previews that series including the Warriors five keys to victory.
For the third consecutive season, the Golden State Warriors enter the playoffs as the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA Championship (5/11 odds according to Vegas Insider). Well, you cannot win the NBA championship without winning your first round matchup so no need to look beyond that at this moment.
This year the top-seeded Warriors face the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland needed a blazing hot final two months just to make the playoffs. In March, the Blazers 11 of their 14 games. They rode that moment to finish out the season with victories in 17 of their last 23 games. The Portland Trail Blazers are a hot team right now and that is always a dangerous team come playoff time.
On a positive note, the Warriors dominated the regular season series against Portland. Golden State defeated the Blazers in all four meetings by a combined 78 points. Below is a highlight video from their January 4 meeting to give you a glimpse at how these teams matchup on the court.
The Dubs are a huge favorite in this season, but the Trail Blazers are not just going to roll over and give up. This series will be a battle and Golden State will need to execute to put Portland away. Here are five (5) keys to victory for the Golden State Warriors in their opening round series.
Key 1: Stay healthy
Injuries are the great equalizer in all sports, but especially playoff basketball. The Warriors experienced this last season with Curry going down during the playoffs and not playing at peak level upon his return.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the same problem in the 2015 NBA Finals against the Warriors. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sidelined, LeBron’s Cavs were no match for the Dubs in that series.
This is why staying healthy is key number one. The Warriors are going to need Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson healthy to win the NBA championship this season. This series is just the beginning of this key, but every mile starts with one step. Hopefully, the Warriors have good healthy and fortune during this series and their entire playoff run.
Key 2: Defense
If there is one thing the Portland Trail Blazers can do it is score points. The Blazers ranked 11th in the NBA in offensive rating this season and 8th in points scored per game. Portland scored 229 points in the previous two meetings against Golden State. They clearly know how to score.</p><p>This team can be a true pain to deal with when they get hot, so the Warriors are going to need to tighten up the defense in this series. They need to run the Blazers off the three point line, force Portland to play at their pace, limit runs by the Blazers, and keep the Trail Blazers from huge scoring bursts and quarters.
Key 3: Easy buckets
The Blazers are a good offensive team, but they struggle mightily on the defensive side. They rated 21st in defensive rating this season. They, also, allowed the 25th most points per game in the league.
Golden State has scored 113 or more points in each of the four previous meetings, but this is playoff basketball all that is out the window.
The Warriors need to not succumb to their nerves in this opening round. The pressure is mounting and luckily the team has embraced that challenge the last two years. Coach Steve Kerr will have his troops ready to light up the lamp and secure victories. Offensive execution is always critical against a team that can score as well as the pesky Blazers.
Key 4: Winning the three-point battle
The Portland Trail Blazers are an interesting case study in the modern NBA. The Blazers ranked 27th in opponents three-point percentage this season, but they rank 6th in three-point conversion rate.
This appears to be the direction the NBA is headed in. Everybody is shooting threes and many teams are increasing their pace. The Warriors started the knocking down three-pointers at a high clip and that has been one of their keys to success in this entire three-year run.
They need to beat Portland in three-pointers made and three-point percentage battle if they want to walk with a dominant series victory over the eight-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
Key 5: Staying calm and playing within yourself
Portland is going to get crazy hot at some point during this series. It may happen multiple times who knows, but the Warriors cannot let it affect them.
Portland’s roster features three great three-point shooters. C.J. McCollum’s 42.1% and Allen Crabbe’s 44.4% from distance are among the top 10 players in the NBA in that category. That does not even mention Damian Lillard and his 37.1% clip. This team can get red hot and score points in bunches.
The Warriors need to just continue playing their game and make Portland's shots as difficult as possible when this phenomenon occurs. The Blazers have a tendency to win games against top teams by using spurts of high scoring output to push them over the top. I think the Warriors have too much playoff experience to let that happen, but only time will tell.
The Golden State Warriors defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in 5 games.
Game 1: Sunday, April 16 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern
Game 2: Wednesday, April 19 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern
Game 3: Saturday, April 22 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern
Game 4: Monday, April 24 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern
Game 5: Wednesday, April 26: time to be announced (if necessary)
Game 6: Friday, April 28: time to be announced (if necessary)
Game 7: Sunday, April 30: time to be announced (if necessary)
There you have it, my Golden State Warriors opening round playoff series preview.
I am more than excited for this series for a plethora of reasons. The Blazers are always good for a shootout and Golden State is one of the most efficient teams in NBA history on both sides of the ball. These games should be fast paced and filled with points. That goes without mentioning the star power in this series or the Warriors’ pursuit of being a Dynasty as reasons to tune in. This series should be a great one and worth the hours spent soaking it in.