Going back to the offseason, Portland didn’t even seem like a playoff team – let alone a five seed. After all, they lost LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez in the offseason and didn’t replace them with any serious talent. But Damian Lillard (25.1 PPG) and CJ McCollum (20.8 PPG, 4.3 APG) took this as an opportunity to fill the void and turn in ther best seasons as pros. The result was a second-half surge that saw this team wind up 44-38.
The Clippers haven’t been quite as much of a feel-good story over the last year. Problems began last season with their second-round collapse against the Houston Rockets, when they blew a 3-1 series lead. Then they had to fight to keep free-agent center DeAndre Jordan from bolting to the Mavericks. And last but not least, Blake Griffin missed 47 games with injuries and got in a fight with the team’s equipment manager. The season doesn’t seem like a major success so far; however, LA did put together a strong 53-29 record through it all.
But can they take the next step and become the serious title contenders that everybody considered them to be last year? Or will the Blazers keep exceeding expectations and pull of the upset? Let’s answer these questions below and discuss some betting advice too.
GTBets.eu line on Game 1 (Apr 17 at 10:30pm EST on TNT)
No. 5 Portland (-110)
No. 4 LA Clippers -8 (-110)
Head-to-head: LA won the series 3-1
Why the Blazers will win this Series
But it’s been a pleasant surprise to the organization that the future is here already with another playoff berth. Aside from Lillard’s All-Star play, McCollum, Allen Crabbe (10.3 PPG), Al-Farouq Aminu (10.2 PPG) and Myers Leonard (8.4 PPG) have all stepped up faster than expected.
These young players combined with veterans like Mason Plumlee (9.1 PPG), Gerald Henderson (8.7 PPG) and Ed Davis (6.5 PPG) helped Portland make it back into the postseason for a third straight year. It was painful at times, especially with 11 blowout losses before the All-Star break, but coach Terry Stotts found a way to make this roster work.
If the Blazers overcome the Clippers, it will be because of lights-out shooting, which Lillard and McCollom are very capable of. This team has two starters in the backcourt combined with a number of solid role players who fill in the gaps. So depth will be the way that Portland wears down LA over a seven-game series.
Why the Clippers will win this Series
With the Warriors and Spurs out West, nobody is really looking at LA as a favorite this year. And for good reason when you consider that Blake has missed the better part of the year with quad/hand injuries. But in terms of pure talent and coaching, the Clippers do have the type of roster to be a dark horse title contender.
Chris Paul (19.5 PPG, 10.0 APG) is back as the floor general, DeAndre Jordan (13.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG) is arguably the game’s best true center and Blake Griffin (21.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG) is a superstar at full strength. Meanwhile, JJ Redick (16.3 PPG), Jamal Crawford (14.2 PPG) and Jeff Green (10.2 PPG) provide some nice scoring support for this team.
The big thing for LA will be getting enough support from their bench down the stretch so that their starters are fresh enough for a championship run. Griffin is also working himself back into game shape because he only got seven starts before the season ended. But just the fact that he’s back on the court makes us confident that LA will win the series, although it could be closer than you might expect.
Prediction on Clippers vs Blazers
Because Griffin isn’t in playoff form already, the Clippers will be less dominant in this series. In fact, if Lillard and/or McCollum get on a roll, it’s possible that the underdog Blazers could win. However, we think that the Clippers will do just enough to get by their first-round opponent and meet the winner of the Spurs/Grizzlies matchup. But are they good enough to cover larger spreads like the -8 line they boast in Game 1?
Series Prediction: LA wins the series 4-3
Betting Advice: You can get some good value out of Portland right now, especially for the first game. LA is talented, but sort of a wildcard until Griffin is totally himself again.