On Sunday afternoon the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors will face off in a best-of-seven series in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. (Full schedule here) Over the next couple days everybody in the universe will pick the Warriors to walk away with the easy victory. That’s understandable. Neither the regular season nor the track records of the two teams are comparable. Golden State eclipses Portland in every way imaginable.
The Blazers are going to win it anyway.
You heard me. The Blazers will take the series. Want to know why? Check out these six reasons.
1. Portland will benefit from the fortuitous return of an injured player.
Allen Crabbe spent the final three games of the regular season in street clothes, but he and his 44% three-point shooting clip will be ready to go for Game 1 of this series. He’s going to provide an unexpected and out-sized boost for the Trail Blazers bench.
2. Klay Thompson is going to be overconfident.
Anyone who’s watched the Blazers and Warriors face off knows that Golden State’s star shooting guard plays incredibly against Portland. When Steph Curry was injured in the 2016 NBA Playoffs, Thompson scored his own points against the Blazers and half of Curry’s on top. Paul Allen may sign the checks but Thompson owns the team. That means he’s coming into the series rightly anticipating another cakewalk. Except the chemistry around him has changed. Half of the time he won’t get to assert himself, the other half he’ll feel pressure to do so. All of a sudden the Warriors’ Golden Boy has feet of...well...you know.
3. The Blazers are going to blitz Kevin Durant.
Golden State’s new chemistry involves accommodating a mega-star at forward. If the big dog isn’t fed, nobody will be happy. But the big dog is coming off of injury, leaving him more vulnerable to the defense of Portland forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless. Both are smaller than Durant but in this situation that’s not a concern. All they need to do is keep Durant from driving past them, limiting him to outside shots. Every three-pointer he attempts is one that Thompson and Curry aren’t. Plus the more he misses, the more wonky those chemistry issues get.
If Durant starts to pass up shots in order to fit in, the Blazers win there too. They can match any amount of Golden State guard scoring with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. If Durant isn’t the difference-maker, the gap between the teams closes.
4. Portland is going to get a new slogan.
Last year the Blazers made a strong post-season run, playing far above their heads beneath the banner of #they: payback for all the unnamed “experts” who predicted them to win fewer than 30 games total.
This year Kevin Pelton of ESPN and other pundits seem to agree that Portland’s chances of upending the Warriors hover around 1% or less. The door is now wide open for the Blazers to co-opt a well-worn financial meme, dubbing themselves the “one percenters”. Any time this team gives themselves a nickname that springs from perceived injustices done to them, they’re triply dangerous.
5. It’s just the Portland way.
The irony of that new nickname: the Blazers are comprised of one percenters, courtesy of a ridiculous flood of contracts issued by the Blazers last summer. Normally you’d assume that a team slated to dole out $133 million in guaranteed contracts next year to a roster that barely scraped into the 8th seed would be in trouble. Anywhere else the headsman would be sharpening the ax and the queue would wind around the block. That’s not how it works in Portland. The Blazers always teeter on the edge of disaster, making their tent spot six feet away from the cliff seem like paradise by comparison.
In January the team appeared headed for oblivion; real change was a possibility. But the Blazers ran off the best record in the NBA after the All-Star break, surfing scheduling relief and blockbuster contributions from newly-acquired center Jusuf Nurkic to their playoff berth. By late-January standards everyone involved is downright ecstatic about this.
But that’s not enough. It’s never enough. The Blazers don’t go halfway in these situations; they head directly into “hold my beer” territory.
Beating the Warriors would not only cement their positive late-season performance, it’d create an imprimatur that would last for infinite seasons to come. No matter what they did—including their annual slump into mediocre irrelevance before putting on a feel-good show—they’d be golden. They could start every season 10-20, never getting closer to a title than the second round, and people would just say, “Ha ha! They beat the Warriors that time. I’m sure they’ll come around. Give them more time and more money!” This is so Portland, every bit as much as Powell’s Books, Voodoo Donuts, and elephants at the zoo.
6. It’s true. It’s true.
When did Kurt Angle hit the Big Time in WWE? Late 1990’s-Early 2000’s, right?
Now when was the last time the Blazers really made a mark on this league?
Kurt Angle just returned to the WWE.
The Blazers are going to win this series. Book it.