Both the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers got here the hard way.
The Kevin Durant-less Warriors went to Houston and, once again, ousted their rivals on the road. Portland went to Denver and won Game 7 after being down 17 in the first half.
Keys for Portland
- Damian Lillard needs to be more of a factor on offense than he was in Game 7. The Trail Blazers win that game because Lillard trusted his teammates and he contributed elsewhere (10 rebounds and 8 assists). But, that isn’t going to be enough against the Warriors. Lillard and CJ McCollum will need to be every bit as good as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and that still might be enough.
- Enes Kanter contributed more than anyone ever thought he would in the Denver series. This must continue when Golden State puts out the likes of Kevon Looney. Also, if the Warriors go small and put Kanter in screen and roll, can he defend? On paper, Kanter should hard hedge and push the ball handler into rotating help. But that is easier said than done when you trying to cover Curry and Thompson
- The Blazers role players must come up big. Rodney Hood, prior to his injury and Zach Collins were huge in the Nuggets series. Portland will need that type of contribution from multiple guys in this series. Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner and/or Seth Curry could also provide the Blazers with the support they need
Keys for Golden State
- Curry and Thompson need to be Curry and Thompson. With Durant out, what we saw was how gutty Thompson truly is. Yes, Curry had the big second half in the second half of Game 6 but it was Thompson who set the table in the first half on both ends. That will need to continue in this series.
- When the Warriors have Durant out on the floor, they’re offense looks different. The ball doesn’t move as freely because Durant is such a mismatch, the fall tends to find him. Without KD, you see the old Warriors with guys like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala reminding NBA fans just how good they are in Kerr’s system. Green’s ability could be a key in the series. Green pushing the ball up the floor allows Golden State to force teams to play Curry and Thompson in space off the pass.
- How can Durant’s health not be a key? Can this Warriors team win without him? Yes. But there has to be concern with how many games this team is playing because of their multiple runs to the finals. With deep runs, year after year, there could be a compounding effect. The shorter the series the better for Golden State.
Golden State in seven.