The Golden State Warriors are generally expected to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers to advance to the 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals, but the question is how many games it will take with Stephen Curry out due to a knee injury to start the series.
So how long will this series go? And what is our gut feeling about when Curry will return? A few of our staff members took some time to submit their predictions.
1. What's your prediction about how long this series will go and who will win?
Hugo Kitano: Trailblazers do not have a consistent option to defend Draymond Green, and the gigantic backcourt of Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson give the Portland guards trouble. Warriors win 2 of the first 3 games. Warriors in 5.
Derek Knight: Warriors in 6.
Andy Liu: I think the Golden State Warriors are becoming severely underrated as the San Antonio Spurs are leading by all statistical margins. Unlike the Spurs, there are no weaknesses on the margins, and when they care, the turned up D is suffocating. The Portland Trail Blazers, namely Damian Lillard, wore down and struggled against a crippled Los Angeles Clippers. I don't envision some amazing resurrection incoming, especially against this team.
On the other side of the ball, the Clippers' PNR game with Austin Rivers was destructive. The Warriors don't rely on it but their post-up movement is just as effective against a small Blazers team. I would gather than the Portland home crowd will steal a game but even then, it's unlikely.
GSW in 4.
Nate P.: I'm going with the Warriors in five games. First, I think the Curry-less Warriors are a much better team than people give them credit for, especially on the defensive end. Second, I really do think the way the Warriors are able to post up playmakers and run their offense from the inside out while still having 3-point shooters around the perimeter is going to hurt the Blazers.
Sam Sorkin: Warriors in 5 games. The Warriors' home court, tenacious defense, versatility and overall depth wins out - even if Curry ends up missing three or more games.
Jared Stearne: Warriors in 6, with or without Stephen Curry. The Blazers can get hot - white hot - and steal a game or two from anyone. But the Warriors are an elite defense with great players at every position. The Los Angeles Clippers they ain't.
2. When do you think Curry will return?
Hugo Kitano: Curry returns for the fourth game, and helps puts the next two games away.
Andy Liu: Steph has said he wants to come back next Saturday for Game 3 and that might be a risky decision considering his level of optimism and how much GSW needs him. I think he comes back Game 4 for the sweep and a tune-up game before they face the Spurs in the WCF.
Nate P: I'm guessing Curry returns for Game 4...a game after Damian Lillard goes off to get the Blazers a win in Portland.
Sam Sorkin: I think that Steph will come back in Game 3 and give the Warriors a boost to finish off the pesky Blazers.
Jared Stearne: Curry will come back in extremely limited minutes in time for game 4. For all the talk about him resting, he's got to get game reps before the WCF. You saw how off be was in game 4 against the Rockets: that won't cut it against OKC or San Antonio.
Feel free to chime in with your predictions in the comments below.