The Portland Trail Blazers will need their A-game to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially with the absence of Jusuf Nurkic in the middle. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report commended Portland for defying their preseason odds and securing the No. 3 seed, but he doesn’t see a way past the Thunder. Buckley picked OKC to win the series in six games:
Shout-out to the Blazers, who seemed primed for regression from last season but played their way back into the West’s No. 3 seed. The Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt produces binge-worthy highlight reels, and Enes Kanter’s offensive weapons are razor-sharp.
Portland didn’t collect a prize for its regular-season work, though. OKC is a brutal draw. The Thunder swept the season series 4-0—the only other team with a 4-0 knockout of its first-round opponent was Milwaukee—and have the length and athleticism to pester Portland on the perimeter. Russell Westbrook and Paul George are statistical prodigies, and Steven Adams could be the difference-maker with Jusuf Nurkic out.
Prediction: Thunder in six
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