The NBA playoffs is off and running and things are about to get interesting. March Madness is my favorite sporting event, but the NBA playoffs are right up there with it. For me, the most intriguing first round series takes place in the West. The Portland Trailblazers will host the Oklahoma City Thunder in a series that could and should go seven games. In my first round predictions for the Western Conference, my money is on the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Trailblazers having the homecourt advantage, the money line says they’re the favorites to advance. With the absence of Jusif Nurkic, who went down with a horrific injury, could that open the door for Oklahoma City? In addition to the Nurkic injury, C.J. McCollum is trying to get back healthy after his knee injury. Speaking of injuries, Paul George of Oklahoma City is battling a lingering shoulder injury also.
How Portland Can Advance?
First off, homecourt advantage is key to any series when it comes to the playoffs. The home crowd in Portland is one of the more supportive and greater fanbases in the league. Damian Lillard is one of the money players in the game and he’s looking to erase bad playoff memories. Last year, they were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round despite having homecourt advantage. Damian Lillard will try to redeem himself and also prove he’s in the category of Russell Westbrook as one of the best guards in the league. With Nurkic being out, the late season signing of Enes Kanter can play off. If C.J. McCollum can pick up where he left off, the Portland backcourt is just as good as anyone else’s. If the stars of Portland bring their A game and the bench do their usual thing, they can and will advance.
How Can Oklahoma City Advance?
After Paul George decided to remain in Oklahoma City, people thought they could challenge the Warriors. After a slow start to the season, Oklahoma City roared back and had a great season. Honestly, I thought they’d finish in the top-3 of the conference. Russell Westbrook had another great season by notching another triple-double for the third consecutive season. According to 888 Sport, Paul George should finish in the top-3 or 4 in the MVP voting as he’s one of my favorites. Paul George and Russell Westbrook are two of the top players in the league. Steven Adams command the middle for the Thunder as he’s a very underrated defender. In this series, Dennis Schroder and Markieff Morris will need to come up huge. Jerami Grant is the X factor and could provide some timely offense and defensive presence around the basket. If the Thunder play up to their potential, they will upset Portland.