For the first 3 quarters of the series, the Portland Trail Blazers looked like a team ready to compete with the best team in the league. Since then, it’s been business as usual for the Golden State Warriors. The results have been what everyone expected with the Warriors leading the series 2-0. As the series heads back to Portland, can the Blazers avoid a sweep?
It was more evident than ever in game 2 that Portland is in desperate need of their big man, Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are in trouble if Nurkic can’t play this series. Game 1 they were able to compete with Lillard and McCollum shooting lights out. But they still fell short. In game 2, the backcourt duo didn’t have their magic and it cost them big time, losing by 29. Oh, and the Warriors played without Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston Matt Barnes. Not having their big man to dump the ball off to or to help protect the paint is painful to watch. Golden State, a team known for their outside shooting, scored 50 points in the paint to Portland’s 36. The Warriors are just too good. This is what a championship team looks like.
They tried throwing in Meyers Leonard early on as a big body, but he looked like a statue on his first defensive possession and allowed a wide open alley-oop dunk for JaVale McGee. Leonard failed to guard the one guy who has looked goofier on an NBA court than he has. He played 22 seconds before Terry Stotts put him back on the bench.
Portland has shot the second worst field goal percentage within 5 feet from the rim at 48.3% during playoffs, only behind Memphis. They have been one of the worst shooting teams from everywhere on the court in the playoffs. Golden State has bothered Portland a little with their length. But for the most part, the Blazers are also just missing shots that they usually make. Their 3-point percentage is down nearly 10%. The latest game, they shot just 33% from the field as a whole.
The Blazers were chipping a lot of shots in the painted area in game 2. Hats off to Draymond Green and McGee. They did a great job of contesting those shots, making it more difficult for the Blazers to finish. In a game in which the Blazers should have felt they could steal one away from Golden State, they did not play well. From top to bottom, all the way through their rotation, they were just off all night.
Neither team shot the ball very well from deep in this latest game. Portland could have used that to their advantage with a Nurkic in the lineup, with his ability to play with his back to the basket, the Blazers wouldn’t have to rely on contested floaters and reverse layups. It’s obvious that Nurkic brings another dimension to the Blazers offensive when he’s playing. Both offensively and defensively, this team flows more smoothly with him in the lineup. Unfortunately he hasn’t been ready to go yet. Hopefully by Saturday night he feels ready to go.
I haven’t seen the x-rays on Nurkic’s leg, in which was diagnosed with a fractured fibular just 3 weeks ago. Nor am I a physician. I can’t tell you the possibilities of what re-injuring the leg could do for his future. I can’t tell you where his leg is in terms of health. But what I can tell you is that Portland is a much better team with Nurkic than without. If he feels ready to play, than he needs to play. The Blazers need him to play. They won’t win a game if he doesn’t.
The Blazers come back home for the next two games. Sure, they play better at home. As a whole, they should be able to shoot the ball better than they have thus far. However, they’re still playing the best team in the NBA. It’s not even close. They needed a perfect storm if they wanted a chance to win this series; take one early game in Golden State, Nurk to comeback, an x-factor to step up as a third perimeter scorer and for the Warriors to forget how to play with Durant in the lineup. None of those things have happened.
The Blazers could feed off of the Rip City crowd here on Saturday night and play the Warriors tough this next game. However, without their big man, they won’t avoid the sweep. If he can’t go by Saturday, this series is a wrap. Well, let’s face the facts, this series is a wrap regardless. However, I hope Nurkic can be ready by Saturday. It will make an otherwise ugly series interesting.