OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The Golden State Warriors locked in their spot in the Western Conference Finals on Friday evening with a classic, hard-fought win over the Houston Rockets. They will face the Portland Trailblazers, who prevailed in 7 games against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon.
This will be the third time both teams meet in the postseason, all of which have been in the last 4 years.READ MORE: COVID Vaccines: Uber / Lyft To Provide Free Rides To Vaccination Sites In New White House Partnership
The upcoming series has explosive basketball potential, but it also holds some emotional weight for both sides.
Blazers star guard Damian Lillard, an Oakland native, will get the chance to prove himself in his furthest playoff run on what is technically his home court–Oracle Arena.
Lillard has historically been a pain in the Warriors’ side during the regular season, but during the playoffs, his stellar singular play wasn’t enough to stave off the champs.
In the 2016 playoff series against the 73-9 Warriors, Lillard averaged 31.8 points and 6.2 assists. But in the first two games at Oracle, he only shot at 40% or worse while shooting at a high volume. The Warriors took both games and eventually won the series in 5.
The Blazers were swept by the Warriors in 2017, and Lillard scored over 30 in 3 of the 4 games; the one outlier was an unlikely 12 point outing from the sharp shooter.
Regardless of past encounters, this third postseason meeting will be different. Both teams have changed significantly since 2017.
The biggest news for the Warriors, which was reported Friday by Marc Stein of the New York Times, is that DeMarcus Cousins is eyeing a return to the court in this series after he tore his quad in the first round.
This may offset losing Kevin Durant after he sustained a right calf strain in Game 5 against Houston; he will likely miss a large chunk of the Portland series. Portland is also playing without their starting big man, Jusuf Nurkić, though Enes Kanter has stepped up for the Blazers.
While Lillard was Portland’s hero in their first round series against the Thunder, CJ McCollum willed them to a gritty win in 7 games (one of which went in to 4 overtimes) against a tough Denver team. In Game 7 on Sunday, McCollum finished with 37 points and was clutch on defense and offense. He is surely to be a focal point of the Warriors’ defensive plans come next week.
Seth Curry will get the chance to play against his big brother Stephen in a matchup that will likely confuse their family rooting in the stands. They’re the first pair of brothers to face off in a conference finals series. But little brother Seth has proven himself a useful asset for Portland, especially as a 3 point sniper.
But if the Warriors’ Game 6 statement win against Houston proved anything, it’s that Steph Curry is just getting started in the postseason. The “Splash Bros” without Durant will shoulder much more of the offensive load–but that may be a good thing if they continue their high level of play.
Both teams’ head-to-head record was split 2-2 in the regular season.
Below is the full schedule for the Western Conference Finals:
Game 1 tips off on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Oracle Arena.MORE NEWS: COVID Schools: Livermore District To Offer Both In-Person & Virtual Learning Next School Year