G4 – Warriors at Blazers

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There isn’t much that can stop the Warriors on their way to a fifth straight Western Conference title. Not even playing without Kevin Durant for four consecutive games, including three in the conference finals. And rallying from a 17-point deficit in Game 2 and an 18-point deficit in Game 3 is old hat for Golden State, who is looking to knock out Portland for the third time in the last four postseasons.

The Blazers built a 62-45 advantage in the second quarter of Game 2 at Oracle Arena, but Portland was limited to 46 points after halftime in a 114-111 setback. Portland returned to the Moda Center for Game 3 on Saturday night seeking its sixth victory in seven home playoff games and an opportunity to sneak back into this series.

For the second straight game, the Blazers came out on fire as they led the champs, 60-42 late in the first half. Once again, the Warriors made the necessary “halftime adjustments” and outscored Portland in the second half, 57-33 to grab a 110-99 victory and improve to 5-2 away from Oakland in the playoffs.

No KD, no problem for the Warriors as Golden State rode the three-headed monster of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to its 11th playoff victory in 12 tries against Portland since 2016. Curry continued to torch the Blazers by scoring at least 36 points for the third consecutive game in this series, while hitting 6-of-16 attempts from three-point range. Green posted his third triple-double of the postseason with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists, while Thompson scored 19 points, representing the only three Warriors to reach double-figures.

The key to Portland’s success in this series (or any other series) is the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combining for at least 50 points. The Blazers went 7-1 in the first two rounds against the Thunder and Nuggets when Lillard and McCollum topped the 50-point mark. Through the first three games against Golden State, the Portland pair scored 36, 45, and 42 points, which has not been a recipe for success.

In Game 3, Lillard continued his recent playoff struggles by hitting 5-of-18 shots and scoring 19 points, while McCollum put up 23 points, including a 2-of-10 effort from three-point range. The starting frontcourt of Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu combined for only eight points, while Portland missed 24 three-point attempts and misfired on 13 free throws.

Since 2015, the Warriors own a 5-3 SU/ATS when leading a playoff series, 3-0 with all eight contests coming away from Oracle Arena. Golden State last swept the Western Conference finals in 2017 when the Warriors wiped out the Spurs by 14 points in Game 4. All five of these victories by the Warriors in this span came by double-digits, including a 25-point rout of the Blazers in the 2017 first round.

The ‘under’ (220 ½) cashed in Game 3 on Saturday and that result was directly attributed to Portland’s pathetic offensive showing in the second-half. Oddsmakers opened Game 4 at 218 ½ and the number has been hovering between 219 ½ and 220 as of Sunday evening.

Chris David of VegasInsider.com weighs in on the total for Monday and he also offers up some recent playoff trends involving totals and potential sweep games.

He explained, “The best effort from the Trail Blazers in this series came in Game 2 and even in that matchup, they came up short down the stretch. Despite the loss, Portland has shown great tendencies to bounce back after being held under 100 points. Since the All-Star break, the Blazers have been held under 100 points six times which includes Game 1 on this series. In the following contest, the club has scored 117, 132, 140, 119 and most recently 111 points in the second matchup from Oracle Arena. I’m not sure if the Trail Blazers will avoid the sweep but it’s hard to imagine them winning without a big offensive effort and the recent close-out games have seen some pop.

“In this year’s playoffs we’ve seen two 4-0 sweeps and the ‘over’ cashed in both of those games, rather easily too as the Bucks pasted the Pistons 127-104 on the road and the Celtics held off the Pacers 110-106 in Indiana. In the 2018 postseason, the ‘over’ went 2-1 in the fourth game of a sweep while 2017 saw the ‘over’ go 4-1 in those situations. During this span, the winning team that completes the sweep has averaged 119.7 PPG. The Warriors have notched four sweeps over the last three playoffs and they’ve averaged 117.8 PPG. With Golden State being favored now, it’s starting at a higher Team Total (112) but I’m still buying high based on these strong playoff tendencies,” added David.

VegasInsider.com NBA expert Tony Mejia checks in with his thoughts on Game 4, “The knowledge that Lillard is playing through separated ribs isn’t going to affect the Warriors’ game plan. Golden State is still going to send extra bodies his way to keep him from getting comfortable and make others beat him. At this point, given the second-half droughts that have impacted this series, Steve Kerr is quite comfortable with his strategy. Terry Stotts has already tweaked things by starting Meyers Leonard instead of Enes Kanter to run offense through him along the perimeter and has altered his rotation some."

“Lillard and others have missed good looks, so being on the verge of a sweep for the third straight year has been a collective collapse. For that reason, the Blazers remain dangerous, because it’s going to be very important to this group that they don’t go out at home or have to think about getting the broom treatment for another summer. If Green can’t manage to raise the Warriors’ intensity level the way he was able to in Game 3, taking points for pride’s sake shouldn’t be dismissed. We all saw the Blazers’ spirit get broken in Game 3, but the Warriors will have to beat them back for another 48 minutes on Monday night. That’s likely to be easier said than done. Teams facing a sweep against Golden State have gone 2-4 over the past few seasons,” Mejia said.

After closing as a 2 ½-point underdog in Game 3, the Warriors are flipped to a four-point favorite in Monday’s potential close-out game. Durant will be sidelined once again for Golden State to no one’s surprise and likely will not suit up at the earliest until the opener of the NBA Finals.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.