The Portland Trail Blazers are riding high, sailing into Game 3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 2-0 lead with the passing lane to the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs wide open. Their solid start has led to open eyes and speculation across the NBA, including from Danny Chau of The Ringer, who asks if Portland is now a dark horse to make the Western Conference Finals.
While losing Jusuf Nurkic late in the season to a gruesome leg injury has affected the Blazers’ ceiling, the team’s depth and versatility could be a boon should they make it to the second round and beyond. At some point, Enes Kanter’s defensive deficiencies will be picked apart, and the team will have to find ways to mitigate the damage by relying on the two-way role players that surround the Blazers’ fire-and-brimstone backcourt
He also brings up Portland’s past matchup issues and cites three-point shooting as the secret sauce that turns the tables:
Portland was caught in matchup hell for the past two seasons, but luck has finally turned in its favor. The Blazers have the offensive firepower from behind the arc to turn entire series into games of chance—which is all you can hope for as an underdog—and the versatility to match up against the positionally fluid death lineups that both the Warriors and Rockets trot out. They might be the best hope at a compelling Western Conference finals series. Let’s hope their run of luck lasts long enough.
Chau talks about the future of the San Antonio Spurs, the title hopes of the Houston Rockets, and a couple of Eastern Conference teams in the article.