The Trail Blazers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years by defeating the Houston Rockets in their first-round series in six games. Very few predicted that the Trail Blazers would win that series, yet here they are, about the take on the San Antonio Spurs in the second-round.
While the experts are overwhelmingly picking the Spurs to win the series, there are way more people picking the Blazers to beat the Spurs in the second round than picked the Blazers to beat the Rockets in the first round. And of those picking the Spurs, many have them winning in seven games, which is to say they think this series is going to be close. Long story short, the Trail Blazers definately earned some respect for their gutty first-round performance.
So here are the predictions made thus far for the Western Conference semifinal series between the Trail Blazers and Spurs, along with how each analyst picked the first round, when applicable. This list will be updated as more picks are made.
· Zach Lowe of Grantland.com picks the Spurs to win the series in seven games …
The Blazers have the tools to win this series. So do the Spurs. This should be fun. The Spurs have been a hair better all season, they’re deeper, and they have home-court advantage.
Last round results: Lowe picked the Rockets to beat the Blazers in five games.
· Of the 16 NBA experts making picks for ESPN.com, only one person, Amin Elhassan, is picking the Trail Blazers to win the series versus the Spurs in six games. He was one of just three ESPN experts who correctly picked the Trail Blazers to beat the Rockets in six games, so you’ve got to feel good about this pick if you’re a Portland fan.
Seven of ESPN’s analysts pick the Spurs to win in seven games, which basically means almost half the panel thinks this one is a coin flip. Four pick the Spurs to win in six games and three pick the Spurs to win in five games.
Last round results: As mentioned above, only three of ESPN’s experts picked the correct winner of the Portland vs. Houston series.
· Rich Bucher of Bleacher Report picks the Trail Blazers to win the series against the Spurs, though he doesn’t make a prediction on how many games it will go.
Last round results: Bucher picked the Rockets to eliminate the Blazers in the first round.
· Matt Dollinger of SI.com picks the Trail Blazers to win the series in six games.
· The CBSSports.com crew of Ken Berger, Matt Moore and Zach Harper all pick the Spurs to win the series. Berger and Moore have the Spurs winning in seven games, while Harper picks the Spurs in six.
Here’s how Moore explained his pick …
I think this winds up more competitive than people expect. I don’t think the Spurs are “fixed” after their Game 7 win. I think Portland is going to present problems. But just like Dallas surprised people with better defense than they showed in the regular season and a fantastic offensive performance, the Spurs still won, and decisively. I hate to make it this simple, but until the Spurs really fall apart, you have to trust them until the Western Conference Finals at least. History has taught us too much otherwise.
Hard to argue with that.
First-round prediction: Moore had the Rockets defeating the Blazers in six games.
San Antonio’s ability to find a way to harness and ultimately defeat a potent, up-and-coming Warriors team last year looms large in this decision, as does the world-beating brilliance it flashed in Game 7 against Dallas. Home-court advantage helps, too. Popovich’s Spurs are masters at steering opponents away from their preferred options, but all bets are off if Aldridge and Lillard continue to combine for the 55 points a game they averaged against the Rockets.
First-round prediction: Golliver picked the Rockets to win the series versus the Trail Blazers in six games.
The Blazers can’t expect the veteran Spurs to constantly come unglued in the fourth quarters and hold the door open like the Rockets. Blazers will challenge, but home court makes the difference. Spurs in seven.
First-round prediction: Blinebury, who is based out of Houston, picked the Rockets to beat the Blazers in six games.
Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk has the Spurs winning the series in seven games …
While debating the importance of experience and benches in the playoffs, I’ve ignored one key factor that definitely impacts postseason series: coaching. Terry Stotts has improved a great deal since coaching the Hawks and Bucks, and he has Rick Carlisle’s indirect help. With Nicolas Batum in the Shawn Marion role, the Trail Blazers’ can replicate the switching, mismatching defensive strategy that gummed up San Antonio’s offense in the last round. However, the Spurs adjusted then, and two good coaches might still not equal Gregg Popovich.
· The six-person panel making picks at Basketball Insiders.com split their predictions, with Yannis Koutroupis (seven games), Lang Greene (six games) and Steve Kyler (seven games) picking the Blazers to win the series while Alex Kennedy (seven games), Moke Hamilton (six games) and Nate Duncan (five games) pick the Spurs.
First-round prediction: Only Alex Kennedy correctly picked the Trail Blazers defeating the Rockets, though he predicted a seven-game series.
· Adi Joseph at USA Today picks the Spurs to win the series in six games …
Experience could be the difference. The Spurs are the defending Western Conference champions and have a roster as playoff-tested as any aside from the Heat and perhaps the Nets. Parker and Duncan know exactly when to step on the gas, whereas Lillard has a penchant for clutch moments but sometimes can shoot his team out of games. The Spurs also play much, much better defense than the Blazers or the Rockets and could clamp down on that end.