Moore: How I’m Betting Warriors-Blazers Game 2

Moore: How I’m Betting Warriors-Blazers Game 2 article feature image

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: CJ McCollum

  • Matt Moore reveals how he's betting Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers had themselves a very bad, no good day as Golden State mopped the floor with them in Game 1.

Portland was clearly drained from an emotional Game 7 win over Denver on Sunday — I was at Pepsi Center and I can’t remember a non-Finals locker room being that loud in celebration, echoing through the walls and all throughout the tunnels. And rightfully so. It was a hard-fought, satisfying win for a team that continues to defy the odds.

Then the Blazers got smacked around by Golden State.

I had hoped that the public would overreact to Game 1 and hammer the Warriors so much that the line would creep toward Blazers +9. Not only did that not happen, but as the money came in at a staggering differential to the tickets on the Blazers, the line actually moved back to +7.5 then down to +7, where it stands as of writing (see live odds here).

First, you should go read John Ewing on how books have adjusted to that zig-zag response in recent years, then come back and I’ll tell you how I’m betting  Game 2 and the three reasons why.

1. The Blazers Won’t Bleed Basketballs in Game 2

The Blazers gave up 31 points on 21 turnovers in Game 1. I cannot stress how bad this number is. It’s tied for the second-most turnovers in a postseason game this year.

It’s also the second-most points off turnovers for the Warriors behind Game 2 against the Clippers. Using Game 3 of that series as a model, the Clippers cut their turnovers down from 22 to 13 and points off turnovers down from 34 to 20. The Clippers still lost by 27, because, Warriors. But also of note: That was Kevin Durant’s first game after the “you know who I am” game. And Durant will not play in Game 2 tonight.

The Blazers can fix a lot of their turnover issues. Damian Lillard is not turnover prone, he just had a miserable night. In pick-and-roll coverage, the Warriors were longer and more aggressive on their blitz, forcing bad passes:

Lillard will have to find a way to break the Warriors of their tactics on him, which means trusting Enes Kanter (yikes) and Zach Collins (less yikes) on the short roll. They can also run more 1-3 pick-and-roll with Steph Curry and Rodney Hood to give them a better option.

The Warriors are also more engaged, longer and smarter than Denver’s defense off-ball. This would have been a clean catch for CJ McCollum vs. the Nuggets, but Klay Thompson reads it the whole way:

Lillard has to be more careful not to jump without a plan, which is something he can definitely do.

Even in isolation, Thompson made Lillard’s life miserable. This one’s pretty cut and dried: If Lillard can’t beat Thompson (and there’s a lot of evidence that he can’t), then Lillard isn’t going to be able to score much in this series.

There were questions about why the Warriors were doubling Kanter in the post. After all, those are better options for the Warriors than open Blazer 3s. But it’s not a threat the Warriors are concerned with — it’s an opportunity they’re targeting.

Kanter had four turnovers, three of them live ball.

This just isn’t a strategy that the Blazers can turn to.

If we’re being real, Kanter needs to play few minutes vs. Golden State, but given his emotional role on the team and Zach Collins’ inexperience, it’s unknown if Terry Stotts will make that move. But not posting Kanter is definitely an easy option.

2. McDolla Menu Back

Portland’s two stars will play better, they just will. They might not play well enough, but they will play better.

For Lillard, this could simply mean assists. He had six assists to seven turnovers in Game 1. He keeps hoping some team will either a) not blitz him (as OKC elected not to), or b) that he’ll get separation against it, and it’s just never there.

At this point, Lillard has to adjust and either work off-ball more or just trust his roll guys and hope they can bend the defense backward. Using the pick and pop over and over again with Zach Collins might break them, but Collins is going to have to hit an insane number of 3s.

Lillard simply can’t force it Trying to split the double has not yielded good results in the last series or this one:

However, McCollum should be able to get loose. Curry defended McCollum really well in Game 1, challenging him and staying with him:

But if you run Curry off screens, he’s going to allow separation, which lets McCollum get to his spots:

What the Blazers really need is a third threat as a passer. This is where Jusuf Nurkic’s injury really comes in and hurts. Nurkic out of the post or short roll could help them a lot.

But as is, if the Blazers use Al-Farouq Aminu or Collins (who the Warriors will not tightly guard from mid-range) in the pinch post and run whoever Curry’s guarding off screens, they can get separation. They just need to make sure they have enough shooters on the floor to find a mismatch coming off those screens.

Either way, the Blazers should find a way to balance things better in Game 2, even if it’s not enough.

3. It Can’t Rain All the Time

The Blazers’ defensive strategy in Game 1 was, point blank, stupid. I will almost never use that term, but they literally dropped coverage vs. literally the greatest shooter of all time. They were begging to get smashed.

Now, the Blazers don’t have awesome alternatives.

If you switch, especially with Kanter, Curry’s getting to the rim, passing, then relocating. If you blitz Curry, you’re getting 4-on-3s with Draymond Green lobbing or kicking to open shooters. If you hedge and recover, Curry’s just going to keep running off another screen and find space.

Turns out it’s hard to guard Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Shocker. Who knew, am I right?

But all of these alternatives are better than just letting Curry shoot himself into rhythm.

The Blazers were adamant after the game that they needed to change coverage, and they almost assuredly will. That won’t stop the Warriors, it might not even slow them down much. But we’re not looking for massive gains here, we’re looking for a slight deceleration coupled with an acceleration with the Blazers offense due to the above adjustments. That can be reasonably expected, and even if Curry goes off for 30, it might not be for 36, and that gets us within range.

This might be wishful thinking, but it’s enough for me to at least lean toward the Blazers. All of these reasons are why I like the over on McCollum’s prop of 23.5 points and the over on the Blazers’ total of 105.