Playoff Predictions: Few Pick Portland To Advance

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

With the playoffs starting in just a few days, national media predictions for how the first rounds are going to play out are starting to make their way onto the internet.

Despite having the same record as the Rockets and being a last-second three-pointer away from splitting the season series 2-2, there are very few pundits picking the Trail Blazers to make it out of the first round, with many of the predictions picking Houston to win the series rather handily.

Below is a collection of predictions from around the web, which will be updated as more media outlets go on record with their predictions from the four/five matchup between the Blazers and Rockets, which tips off Sunday at 6:30 PM on KGW, TNT and 620 AM. Currently, four people have picked the Trail Blazers to win the series.

And if you’re so inclined, go ahead and put your predictions in the comments as well.

· Zach Lowe of Grantland.com picks the Rockets to win the series in five games

Portland has other weapons — Wes Matthews is going to post the crap out of Harden, and the team’s expert offensive rebounding could hurt Houston, which goes through fits of laziness on the glass. But the Rockets should have enough on both ends to take this — provided Beverley is really ready to go.

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has the Rockets taking the series in six games

Offense. That’s the prediction. Lots and lots of offense, because neither of this teams defend well. Since All-Star Break, the Blazers have the 12th best defense in points per possession, but have struggled against the West playoff teams.

The Rockets aren’t exactly defensive stalwarts either, but they have mot in the way of playoff style personnel. Beverley should give Lillard problems and the Rockets will be able to get what they want offensively.

It should be an entertaining, wide open, and high-scoring series, but Portland’s defense and lack of home court eventually does them in.

· Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk has the Rockets winning the series in seven games

The Trail Blazers slipped from their perch atop the Western Conference after a 31-9 start, but they’ve bounced back. Portland won its last five and nine of ten, providing momentum entering the playoffs. But the Rockets won the season series, 3-1, so they have homecourt advantage.

· NBA.com’s Fran Blinberry, who is based out of Houston, picks the Rockets to win in six games

The statistics and the seedings say this should be a high-scoring, entertaining and evenly matched series. Both teams have a pair of All-Stars and both can fill up the basket. A healthy Howard is the difference-maker around the rim.

· The Yahoo! Sports “Ball Don’t Lie” crew of Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine and Eric Freeman all pick the Rockets to win the series. Dwyer goes with Houston in six games, while Devine and Freeman both have the Rockets in seven.

· Lee Jenkings, Rob Mahoney and Matt Dollinger, all of SI.com, pick the Rockets to win the series.

· ESPN.com has an excellent “5-on-5” roundtable with Henry Abbott, Tom Haberstroh, Rahat Huq, Danny Nowell and Ethan Sherwood Strauss in which all five pick the Rockets to win the series. Abbott, Nowell and Strauss pick the Rockets in seven games, while Haberstroh and Huq pick the Rockets in five.

· Of the 18 NBA experts ESPN.com has making picks, just three — Israel Gutierrez,  Amin Elhassan and Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight.com — have the Trail Blazers winning the series versus the Rockets, with all three picking Portland to win in six games. Of the 15 who are picking the Rockets to win the series, six went with the Rockets in seven games, five had the Rockets winning in six games and four have the Rockets winning in five games. The four who are picking the Rockets in five often use advance stats heavily in their work.

· NBA TV’s Steve Smith and Stu Jackson both pick the Rockets to beat the Trail Blazers, although they don’t say in how many games. They also picked every team in the West with home court advantage to advance.

· Ben Golliver of SI.com picks the Rockets to win the series in six games …

Elite offense requires success behind the arc, at the rim and at the foul line, and the Rockets cover all of those bases better than the Blazers. During the postseason chess match, Houston looks to possess a deeper pool of offensive counters, and its primary options — Harden and Howard — should be the two best players on the court. Throw in Portland’s defense — which is inconsistent overall and has struggled to slow the Rockets’ stars — and Houston’s home-court advantage, and the Rockets should emerge from a very competitive series.

· Chris Mannix, also of SI.com, picks the Rockets to win in five games.

· Howard Beck and Rick Bucher of Bleacher Report both pick the Rockets to win the series, though they don’t say in how many games. Both Beck and Bucher also pick all of the top teams in the West to advance.

· It’s not exactly a prediction, but Paul Flannery at SBNation.com does a best case/worst case for the Blazers vs. the Rockets, with both hypotheticals going seven games …

Best Case: The Blazers win a seven-game series with Houston as LaMarcus Aldridge goes for 20 and 12 every night and each game is decided on a cold-blooded Damian Lillard three.

Worst Case: The Blazers lose a seven-game series with Houston as Dwight Howard keeps Aldridge in check and every game is decided by a Mo Williams three after Pat Beverley keeps the ball out of Lillard’s hands.

· Of the six writers making predictions for Basketball Insiders, only Alex Kennedy has the Trail Blazes beating the Rockets, doing so in seven games. The other votes are split between the Rockets in five (two votes), the Rockets in six (two votes) and the Rockets in seven (one vote).

 

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard's Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard’s Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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Trail Blazers Look To Get Damian Lillard Going

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The first two games of their first round series versus the Memphis Grizzlies have been rough for the Trail Blazers, particularly for Damian Lillard. While no Blazer has played particularly well thus far, Lillard’s struggles have been the most noticeable, especially when contrasted with his performance in last year’s first round matchup against the Rockets, a series that culminated with the 6-3 guard out of Weber State hitting a now legendary Game 6 series-winning three-pointer as time expired.

While his Game 6 performance is the most enduring memory of that series, Lillard was spectacular through all six games. He averaged 25.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and a ridiculous 49 percent shooting from three while also adding 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebound and 1.3 steals in a hefty 44.7 minutes per game (you may recall that three of the six games went to overtime). The Spurs had much more success slowing him down in the second round, holding him to just 17 percent shooting from three, though he still shot 41 percent from the field and averaged almost 20 points and just over six rebounds before the Trail Blazers were eliminated by the eventual World Champions in five games.

Flash forward to today and one imagines Lillard would be happy to play as well as he did against the Spurs, let alone the Rockets, versus the Grizzlies. Shooting just 27 percent from the field and a perplexing nine percent from three, the third-year point guard lamented after practice Friday afternoon that the Grizzlies’ defense has been all but impenetrable through the first two games.

“It’s been tough,” said Lillard. “They do a really good job of clogging up the paint, keeping a lot of bodies in the paint to where it’s kind of uncomfortable being down there because they’re playing physical and they’re playing really good team defense. You’ve got to give them credit, but the good looks I do get, I’ve got to make those shots. I just haven’t made shots.”

Lillard, along with the rest of the team, has studied film in an effort to figure out way that he might get himself going heading into Game 3 Saturday night at the Moda Center. He may try to get the ball up the court quicker and look to set up his teammates more often in an effort to make the game easier for everyone involved.

“Watching film, I see a lot of times where even if they’re crowding up and there’s not a shot for me, there’s times where I can make plays for other guys,” said Lillard. “There’s always adjustments I can make. Using screens better, picking spots better, pushing the tempo. It’s really hard to score on them in the halfcourt when their defense is set, so just trying to create better opportunities, maybe make more plays so they loosen up on just trying to control me so much. Just make the game easier for myself.”

But even though there are areas in which he could better exploit what little the Grizzlies are giving him, if he’s not able to make the shots that he typically makes, be it in the playoffs last year or the regular season this year, no amount of changing up is going to make much difference.That’s why, even though you’re likely to see Terry Stotts try a few new things to get Lillard going, it’s unlikely that wholesale changes are going to be implemented. That would be impractical and also foolish, as much of what the Blazers are doing are the same things that worked well in the past, including against the Rockets in last year’s playoffs.

“We’ve done somethings, we made some adjustments between Game 1 and Game 2, different sets,” said Stotts of what he and his staff have done to try and help Lillard find his offensive rhythm. “He’s missed some good shots. A lot of the shots he’s made over the course of his career, he’s had, so you don’t want to over-analyze and do things — we’re doing a lot of the same things that have gotten him to this point. The ball is going to be in his hands, we’ve looked at different things. But ultimately, the one thing is — for everybody, not just Damian but everybody– passing the ball, finding the ball on the weakside, creating opportunities for your teammates to get easier shots. I think that lends itself to more rhythm at the offensive end.”

Portland will need that improved rhythm, and a steady dose of shot-making, if they’re to best the Grizzlies Saturday night for the first time in their last six tries. If the Trail Blazers managed to get there offensive going and still lose, they’ll know that the Grizzlies are simply a better team on both sides of the ball. But if they can somehow shake off two disappointing offensive performances to take Game 3, they’ll give themselves a chance to repeat their success against the Rockets last season rather than mimicking their failures versus the Spurs.

“We haven’t been down in a situation like this where we haven’t played well,” said Lillard. “Last year against the Spurs we lost the first three games but in that series we were making some shots, they just outplayed us. Now we’re struggling on the offensive end. It’s different but it’s a new challenge. I think we should be excited to have this opportunity because it seems like everything is going downhill. ‘Do they have a chance?’ It’s an opportunity for us to rise up again. They won the two on their court, now we’ve got to try and take it one game at a time and take care of our home court and see where it goes.”

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