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Game One Preview: Blazers, Warriors Tip-Off First Round in Oakland

by Cody Sharrett

The eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (41-41) and the one-seed Golden State Warriors (67-15) tip-off their first round 2017 Western Conference Playoffs series at Oracle Arena in Oakland Sunday afternoon in the national spotlight on ABC at 12:30pm Pacific. The two sides met in the Western Conference Semifinals a year ago, with the Warriors taking the series in five games on their way to a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

Oakland native and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard enters the series after averaging a career-high 27 points per game in the 2016-17 regular season, boosted by a 59-point outburst versus the Utah Jazz last Saturday in his final appearance of the regular season. Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum combined for 50 points per game in 2016-17, the highest average of any guard tandem in the NBA. Coming off his 2016 Kia NBA Most Improved Player award, McCollum made history this season becoming just the third player to average at least 23 points on no less than 48% from the field, 42% from three-point range and 90% at the free-throw line. McCollum’s 91.2% from the charity stripe was the best percentage in the Association this season.

The biggest question mark for the Blazers entering their Easter Sunday matchup with the Warriors is the health of Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkić, whose midseason acquisition helped turn the Blazers’ season around from being 11 games under .500 in February to a playoff berth. The 7-foot, 280 lb. center averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists before missing. the final seven games of the season with a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula. He is listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday’s game. 

Winners of 67 games in the regular season, Golden State boasts three of the NBA’s top 25 scorers for 2016-17 in back-to-back reigning league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry (25.3 ppg), 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant (25.1 ppg) and guard Klay Thompson (22.3 ppg).  Led by NBA Defensive Player of the Year award candidate Draymond Green, the Warriors held their opponents to 101.1 points per 100 possessions — the second best defensive rating in the NBA. Golden State also led the league in steals (9.6) and blocks (6.8) per game this season. 

Game One tips off at 12:30 pm Pacific on ABC as Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson call the action and Lisa Salters reports from courtside. Brian Wheeler handles the play-by-play locally on Rip City Radio 620 and the Trail Blazers mobile app.