The Western Conference Finals are here, and two dynamic backcourts vie for supremacy. Can the upstart Blazers knock off the defending champs??
<p>Portland exceeded expectations and overcame their struggles on the road to win Game 7 in Denver. A hard fought series they overcame a 17 pt deficit to advance to a showdown with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant and were 7 pt underdogs going into game 6 in Houston. They reverted to their pre KD motion offense, moving the ball, and hammering the Curry Green pick and roll to much success. Curry had 0 its in the first half, and heated up to finish with 33 in an all-time great playoff performance, burying the rockets with a spectacular fallaway 3 pt shot. All this sets up what some consider to be a lackluster conference finals, and in this preview, I will explain why.</p><p>The emergence of Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood have been the key to Portland's playoff success. After losing Nurkic, Kanter was expected (by this writer for sure) to be a liability, but has defended adequately and been a force on offense and on the glass. Hood has solved the problem of the offense from the wing. With Harkless and Aminu providing the 3 and D role, Hood is valuable in that he can catch and shoot as well as create his own shot. The key to the Blazers will always be the backcourt. Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum are the best shooting backcourt in the league, not named Steph and Klay. CJ McCollum was a midrange monster in game 7, taking what the defense gave him en route to dropping 37 pts and controlling the game when it mattered. It was similar to Steph and Klay as in when the star wasn't on his game the secondary shooter lit it up. This makes both teams potent from the backcourt, and the backcourt is where this series will be won.</p><p>Kevin Durant pulled up lame with a calf injury in Game 5, making the Warriors the biggest playoff underdogs in game 6 they had been in years. The Warriors played their old style and it worked. Setting multiple screens, motion, and the Green Curry PNR were quite effective. When they lose Durant they just adapt. They have done well without Durant, an astonishing 25-1 when Durant sits and Curry plays. It shows how much Curry, with his ball handling and constant motion of running thru screens hunting for his shot, is the catalyst to the Warriors game. In this matchup, I don't think they need Durant. The way to attack the Warriors is with frontcourt scoring and rebounding, and I don't think Portland has the bigs to execute it. I have been waiting for a team to attack Kanter in the iso PNR and I don't think the Warriors will overlook this opportunity the way OKC and Denver did. I watched in shock as both teams allowed Kanter to defend in the post rather than bring him out to the perimeter where he greatly struggles. I do not expect the Warriors to overlook this, and with Bogut and Green, they have 2 excellent screeners who will be tough to get thru to avoid the switch. I still believe Kanter on the perimeter is a great liability and I think this will be the series it is exploited. I don't think Zach Collins has the chops to defend this coverage either, but he is improving and brings toughness and hustle. But toughness and hustle aren't enough to defeat this team and I think Portland is going to struggle to keep up with the Warriors. Enjoy the scoring, enjoy the shooting, enjoy the impressive ball handling and shot creation of these 2 great backcourts, but this is where Portland's Cinderella story ends. Golden State is just too potent on offense, too tough on defense, and too experienced in the pressure moments to lose this series.</p><p><b>Betting Tip: GSW -2.5 games @2.15 at <a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=4fd3c129-b898-4816-9a61-9f7e8f34295a&f=1" target="_blank">Unibet</a></b></p><p> </p>