The Portland Trail Blazers head into a first-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday (full schedule here). The Blazers have home-court advantage, and they earned the third overall seed in the Western Conference by beating the Utah Jazz.
It took the Blazers several games to finally secure home-court advantage, with some disappointing losses in the playoff stretch. But the Blazers looked back to normal against the Jazz, and Paul Kasabian of Bleacher Report is buying them in seven games over the Pelicans:
The Portland Trail Blazers have no answer for Anthony Davis, who posted an average of 36 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in his two full games against them this year (he was injured early in a third and missed the fourth matchup entirely).
The question is how the Pelicans defend Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. If the three-time All-Star goes into one of those modes where he’s pulling up and hitting three-pointer after three-pointer all series, then Portland should take this one. But if the Pels can at least slow him down a bit, then they have a shot.
Like the Bucks-Celtics series, this matchup has the potential to be the best of the first round. Look for this one to go long, with the Blazers winning a close Game 7 at home to move on.
In the second round Kasabian has Portland matching up with the now-hobbled Golden State Warriors, as star Stephen Curry is nursing an MCL sprain.
His “murky” status makes Kasabian sell on the defending champs. He has the Blazers in six games, if Curry is limited:
This series hinges on Curry’s return from a Grade 2 MCL sprain: On April 8, Monte Poole of NBC Sports quoted Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who noted there was no update and to inquire “next week.” He already ruled his star man out for the first round.
If Curry returns and is anywhere near close to 100 percent, then the edge goes to the Warriors. If his minutes are limited or he doesn’t play at all, then Portland has the advantage, especially considering Golden State’s end to the season.
The Warriors are heading into the playoffs following a rough two months, going 7-10 in their final 17 regular-season contests. Granted, they’ve suffered injuries to all four of their All-Stars, but the Dubs only beat one playoff-bound team (Oklahoma City) during that stretch and dropped six losses by double digits as well.
Portland eventually falls in the Western Conference Finals to the Houston Rockets in six games, according to Kasabian’s predictions.
The Blazers would most likely have Maurice Harkless back from his injury for a Blazers-Warriors series, as the forward is targeting a rough return date of next week, but nothing is certain yet. And even without Curry, the Warriors still have Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to ruin Portland’s lives during a series.
While looking ahead may be tantalizing (or frightening if they draw Golden State in Round 2), the Blazers still have to dispel Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, who have hung in despite losing All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
You can find a full statistical series preview for Blazers-Pelicans here.
You can find the series schedule here.
And you can stay tuned to Blazer’s Edge for full coverage of the series before and during.