Western Conference Finals
This is going to be fun.
For years, now, Lillard and McCollum have been hyped as the second-best duo in the NBA, behind Curry and Thompson - and now we get to see them go duo-to-duo. In that sense, alone, this series may actually benefit from Durant being out (for at least the first two games). Having that third piece removed makes this a true backcourt to backcourt matchup.
I think this series will be one of passion vs. execution. While I'm not saying the Warriors play without passion, I think that is nearly all the Trailblazers play with. Every bad shot that goes in, every bench player who steps up after being counted out of the NBA, every rebound Kanter pulls down with only on shoulder, the Trailblazers are that group of underdogs that ride their overwhelming passion to one improbable win after another.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are the most precise and well-executing team in the league. I was thinking, while watching Game 6 v. the Rockets, that it was amazing that every player - from Steph Curry to the 12th man off the bench - almost always made the right move. That move didn't always result in a score or defensive block but it was never due to a lack of execution. Every time they brought another player, who had barely seen any playing time thus far, off the bench - he knew exactly when to cut, he know exactly where his highest percentage shot would be, he knew exactly when to switch and he knew exactly how to defend Harden. The reason the game was close enough for Steph to take over, in the second half was the team's outstanding execution in the first half.
This may be the only series in the playoffs where not having Boogie won't hurt the Warriors. Bogut and Looney should have no problem with Kanter and I bet Golden State is going to pick and roll him right off that court - just as they did when he was with the Thunder. I'm also pretty confident thinking that GSW's backcourt can outplay Portland's without KD - just like they did before KD joined the team. Lastly, as much as it's been inspiring to watch the Trailblazers, I think they're simplay running out of guys. Kanter was noticably impacted by his injuries, by the end of the last round. Rodney Hood is out for, at least, the beginning of the series and there's only so many times they can count of someone like Evan Turner coming off the bench for an unexpected spark.
The Trailblazers have been the most exciting and inspiring team in the Western Conference playoffs, but I've got to think that this may be the point when execution outplays passion. I'm picking the Warriors in 5.