The Golden State Warriors injury list keeps growing, and with it comes a sense of urgency. Andre Iguodala left game three with a unidentified lower leg issue. Though the MRI came back clean on Sunday, the do-everything wing is almost certainly going to be sitting out game four. That puts Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Iguodala all on the bench and puts the onus on the remaining Warriors to bring a quick and merciful end to this series. Win tonight, and the team would get over a week off to recuperate and regroup ahead of the NBA Finals.
With a loss tonight, the Blazers could be swept out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year, albeit a bit deeper in than their unceremonious first round departure last season. But the familiar taste of the broom would be a sad end to what has been an auspicious season for Portland.
Warriors just too much
In our series preview, we called for a five game Warriors win, but with the Blazers unable to hold on to an 18-point lead in game three and their best player nursing separated ribs, it feels like game four may be it for the Conference Finals.
The Warriors core has just been too much. Playing without superstars Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins seems like the the sort of factor that would have extended the series, but instead it has served as a rallying cry of sorts for the remaining Warriors. Stephen Curry (36 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6 assists per game) has flummoxed Portland’s defenders, and when he’s not launching, Draymond Green (16 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, two steals and three blocks) has served as the devastating relief valve and defensive dynamo.
Dray is the first player since 1983-84 to tally— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 19, 2019
& 4+ steals in a single playoff game pic.twitter.com/SpmBwiVC2U
Without Iguodala, expect Jonas Jerebko and even Alfonzo McKinnie to get some more run. Given the importance of rest this late in the season, it’s a safe bet to expect Golden State to fight hard for a win tonight rather than head back to Oakland for yet another game.
Damian Lillard expected to play despite separated rib
With nothing to lose and no significant risk of further injury, Lillard seems poised to give it a go for game 4. Though Golden State is hampered by more than their fair share of injuries, seeing Oakland’s home town son struggling through pain is tough to see. Here’s the play where he got hurt:
Here is the play where Damian Lillard sustained the reported rib injury pic.twitter.com/mwiwWg6oSX— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) May 19, 2019
Though he was just 4-12 in game one, even while healthy, the Warriors swarming defense combined with an injury has absolutely demolished Lillard over the course of this series. He’s averaging just 20 points in nearly 40 minutes per game, and scoring at a sub par efficiency of .539 TS%.
His backcourt partner, CJ McCollum hasn’t fared much better with just 20.7 points in about 38 minutes per game at a downright bad TS% of .449.
This is reflective of a team wide issue, the Warriors are significantly more efficient at scoring the ball than the Blazers have been. Faced with relentless double teams and intense pressure on their primary ball handlers, the Blazers lack of a pressure relief valve like Draymond Green has been staggeringly apparent.
Get them brooms out!
This one is pretty easy, every game will be at 6pm on ESPN (tip off is approximately 6:10)
Game 4: Mon, May 20, Golden State at Portland
*Game 5: Wed, May 22, Portland at Golden State
* - If Necessary (which is getting less and less likely)