At the risk of using a flim-flammy statement that doesn’t really mean anything, it is very hard to see a path to victory for the Portland Trail Blazers in their first round playoff series against the powerhouse Golden State Warriors..
That said, they come into the series with as big of a head of steam as an eight seed realistically can.
We have looked at the Blazers a couple of times this season. The first was back in November, after they had limped out to a slow start lacking much in the way of interior play, strength around the basket and toughness, and were struggling to ingratiate the highly expensive Evan Turner in a guard-heavy, drive-and-kick offense. The second was just after the trade deadline, a trade deadline at which they had traded the closest thing that they had to said interior toughness, Mason Plumlee, to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and a first round pick.
It was that Plumlee/Nurkic trade that got them here. Eight games under .500 at the time of the trade, the Blazers went 18-10 to finish the season, including a 13 out of 16 span (itself featuring a 6-1 record versus other playoff teams). The Blazers scored an awful lot of points over that stretch, and Nurkic’s addition was a large part of why. In his 20 games thus far with the team, Nurkic has averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes per game, shooting 50.8% from the field and sporting a 21.2 PER. And this was for the team that was supposed to be the sellers in that deal.