Could Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Take Down Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz? Predicting (Poorly) Possible 1st Round Series

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With the Blazers officially having punched their ticket to the 2018 NBA Playoffs, we can finally turn to the matchups. This season has been a demolition derby in the West (compared to a nice game of lawn darts in the East) but at long last, Playoff basketball is upon us.

If the playoffs started today, the Trail Blazers, as the third seed, would match up with the Utah Jazz (6th). Both teams are heading into April about as hot as any teams in the league (Utah 24-6 in the last 30, Portland 25-8 in the last 33). Barring injuries, they should compete at peak performance. I would love this as a series.

Analysis:

The center position will be the key to this matchup, Rudy Gobert versus Jusef Nurkic will pivot the series. The national media will likely focus on the guard play, especially since there is a percieved matchup advantage there. In this writer’s humble opinion, however, Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell are almost a perfect trap series for the Blazer guards. Like most point guards, Rubio has experienced the Blazer Bump over the years, in that his stats are markedly improved when playing the Trail Blazers.

Thats probably another article by itself, but for a terribly small sample size exapmle, his highest scoring nights (30) of the year came versus the Pelicans and the Trail Blazers.

Quick segue; this has been a maddening theme as a fan of the Blazers over the years. They have made Raymond Felton look legit, and he led the league in dribbling the ball off his foot when he played in Portland.

Key Matchups:

Nurk/Gobert

Dame/Rubio

Jae Crowder/(Al Farouq Aminu or Moe Harkless)

Utah has won two of tree matchups thus far, and have done so by winning an overtime thriller, and a convincing 19 point victory. The Blazers countered by humbling the Utah squad 100-81. This is a tough call to make.

Predictions:

Game 1

The Trail Blazers storm out to a commanding lead, led by the Bosnian Beast (Nurk). Unfortunately, Dame and CJ McCollum are hounded by their counterparts and the Jazz slowly get into the game. The Jazz take game one on a rather ironic (career 26%) Rubio three-pointer.

Blazers 100 – 103 Jazz

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Game 2

Lillard Time starts early with 20 points in the first quarter. The Blazers coast from there. Maybe a brief hiccup when McCollum misses a few shots, but no real trouble.

Blazers 120 – 94 Jazz

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Game 3

The Bosnian Beast awakens for a monster night. Thirty points 18 boards five blocks. The national media hails the Nurk.

Blazers 105 – 93 Jazz

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Game 4

The Bosnian Beast gets humbled by Gobert. Crowder has his best game of the series. Blazers lose.

Blazers 89 – 100 Jazz

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Game 5

Led by CJ’s 40, cruise by the Jazz. Aminu and Crowder get ejected as emotions begin to run high.

Blazers 133 – 101 Jazz

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Game 6

The Portland Trail Blazers take the series on a walk-off three-pointer by…Al Farouq Aminu.

Blazers 99 – 97 Jazz

Blazers Win Series 4-2

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