The top-seeded Golden State Warriors face the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
The top overall seed in the playoffs, the Warriors will take on the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in a rematch of last year’s second round series, beginning with Game 1 at Oracle Arena on Sunday.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES
The Warriors swept the regular season series with the Trail Blazers four games to zero, which included some of Golden State’s more impressive offensive displays of the 2016-17 campaign.
11/1/16 at Portland: Warriors 127, Trail Blazers 104
Stephen Curry scored 23 points in the third quarter and Ian Clark had 22 points off the bench as the Warriors built a 30-point lead early in the fourth quarter and the reserves played out the remainder of the victory. Game Recap
12/17/16 at Golden State: Warriors 135, Trail Blazers 90
Kevin Durant shot 11-of-13 from the field and recorded a double-double with 34 points and 11 rebounds. Ian Clark added another 23 points off the bench in what turned out to be the Warriors’ second-largest margin of victory this season. Game Recap
1/4/17 at Golden State: Warriors 125, Trail Blazers 117
Curry (35) and Durant (30) topped the 30-point mark in the same game for the second and final time in the regular season, although Damian Lillard missed the game due to injury. Game Recap
1/29/17 at Portland: Warriors 113, Trail Blazers 111
Evan Turner had the chance to win the game in the final seconds, but his would-be buzzer-beating three-pointer clanked off the front rim, allowing the Warriors to escape with a victory to complete the regular season series sweep. Curry missed his first game of the season due to a stomach flu. Game Recap
However, the regular season series doesn’t paint the full picture as to how the teams might match up in the playoffs. Yes, the Warriors have won 14 of 16 games against the Blazers since Steve Kerr became head coach, but Portland has been a considerably different team since the two sides last saw each other in late January.
MATCHUP AT A GLANCE
Regular Season Ranks in Parenthesis
1st in West
115.9 PPG (1st)
44.4 RPG (7th)
30.4 APG (1st)
8th in West
107.9 PPG (8th)
43.7 RPG (14th)
21.1 APG (23rd)
GSW: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia
POR: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard
INJURY & ROSTER NOTES
GSW: TBD. Team Notes
POR: TBD. Team Notes
PORTLAND SCOUTING REPORT
Portland’s 18 post-All-Star break victories were tied for the second-most in the NBA behind only Golden State’s 20, and they allowed 3.6 fewer points per 100 possessions over that stretch than they had prior to it, ranking as the 10th most efficient defensive team in the league since mid-February. A considerable portion of that improvement can be attributed to the arrival of center Jusuf Nurkic, who came to the Blazers via a trade with Denver just prior to the trade deadline. He had an immediate impact, averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over the next 20 games, of which Portland won 14. However, Nurkic suffered a fibular fracture on March 30th and has not played since, and his status for the upcoming series with the Warriors remains up in the air. Oakland native Damian Lillard, Portland’s leading scorer, helped fill the resulting void by averaging 30.6 points per game since, including a 59-point outburst against the Jazz on April 8. Between Lillard (27.0 ppg) and C.J. McCollum (23.0 ppg), the Trail Blazers have the highest-scoring backcourt in the Western Conference this season.
PTS: Curry (25.3)
REB: Durant (8.3)
AST: Green (7.0)
PTS: Lillard (27.0)
REB: Nurkic (10.4)
AST: Lillard (5.9)
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Portland isn’t the only team in the league – or this series – with a star-studded backcourt, and Golden State’s tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson rivals that of any other in the NBA. Curry (25.3 ppg) and Thompson (22.3 ppg) make the Splash Brothers the second-highest scoring backcourt duo in the conference this year, and in the two games in which both backcourts were at full strength in the regular season series, they totaled the exact same amount of points as Lillard and McCollum. It’s quite possible the matchup of the backcourts – at least in terms of offensive output – could be a wash yet again in the upcoming series, so perhaps a different player will provide the decisive advantage. With that in mind, a matchup to keep an eye on will be the battle of the small forwards between the Warriors’ Kevin Durant and the Blazers’ Al-Farouq Aminu.
Durant recently returned from a 19-game absence due to a knee injury, and finished the regular season off in style, totaling 29 points on 16 shots while making 5-of-7 attempts from three-point range. In general, Durant’s presence is the largest difference between this season’s Warriors roster and the ones that reached the NBA Finals each of the last two years, and there are few players in the world that possess the unique offensive skill set that has helped make Durant (25.1 ppg) an All-Star for the last eight seasons. In his first season with Golden State, Durant posted career-highs in field goal percentage (.537), rebounds (8.3) and blocks per game (1.6), and his all-around impact provides the Warriors with a distinct advantage at that position on more nights than not. Aminu will likely draw the assignment of making life as tough as possible on Durant, and how successful he is in doing so could have a severe effect on determining the series’ outcome.