Playoff Predictions Roundup: Few Pick Trail Blazers To Upset Lakers

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Over the last few weeks, there has been plenty of talk that the Trail Blazers might give the Lakers a series even before Portland had officially qualified for the 2020 NBA Playoffs, and for multiple and reasonable reasons. The Trail Blazers are just a season removed from making the Western Conference Finals, they’re not exactly the same team that limped their way through the first four months of the regular season, Damian Lillard has proved nearly unguardable in Orlando and the Lakers are thin at the guard positions, so of the teams fighting for the eight-seed in Orlando, the Blazers seemed like the best equipped to pull off a rare 1-8 upset.

But saying an underdog has a chance and actually picking them to win s best-of-seven series are two very different things. So it’s not surprising to see that, outside of Charles Barkley, not many analysts are picking the eight-seed Trail Blazers to eliminate LeBron James and the one-seed Lakers, a series that tips off at 6 p.m. Tuesday night. In fact, only one brave soul had the guts to pick the Trail Blazers, while every other non-Barkley prediction has the Lakers advancing.

So, for the sake of posterity, here are a collection of NBA media making their predictions for the 1-8 series between the Trail Blazers and Lakers...

• ESPN has 17 people making playoff predictions. Eleven picked the Lakers to win in six games, four have picked the Lakers to win in five games and one has the series going seven games, with the Lakers ultimately advancing.

But only one person, Andre’ Snellings, has picked to the Trail Blazers to win the series, and in seven games. Shoutout to Andre’.

• The crew at CBS Sports all have the Trail Blazers losing to the Lakers, with seven of the eight picking Portland to lose in either five or six games. One writer, Jasmyn Wimbish, has the Trail Blazers being swept in four games.

• Sam Amick and Josh Robbins at The Athletic surveyed various coaches, scouts and NBA executives, and they all picked the Lakers to win...

Coach’s outlook: “I think the nature of (Portland’s) offense being so high octane is that they’re going to have a night or two where they’re probably going to get off. I don’t think the Lakers can shut the water off completely on (Damian Lillard). I think it would go six.”

Executive’s outlook: “I think it will be a great series. At the end of the day, the two best players (in the series; LeBron James and Anthony Davis) are still on the (Lakers), though, and I would pick the Lakers over the Blazers.”

Scout’s pick: Lakers in six
Coach’s pick: Lakers in six
Executive’s pick: Lakers in six
Consensus advancing team: Lakers

• John Hollinger at The Athletic has the Lakers winning in a Gentleman’s Sweep...

Lillard scored 48 in a win in L.A. in January, and averaged 36.0 in the teams’ three meetings this year. He is at the absolute top of his game right now, and fans can only hope he still has something left in the tank.

Unfortunately, the Blazers still lost twice to L.A., because the Lakers shot an absurd 57.6 percent on 2s in their three meetings. There’s not a whole lot of reason to think Portland can fare better this time around, but Lillard will keep it entertaining. I’m dubious that the Blazers will have much left in the tank after all the energy they expended to get to the postseason, or I’d bet on them to push L.A. a little further.

The pick: Lakers in five.

• Anthony Slater, also at The Athletic, has Trail Blazers’ season ending in five games...

That’s why I think Portland has to win the first game to make this a series. It’s where they have the advantage. They’re already zooming at 80 miles an hour in the fast lane, while the Lakers are only edging toward 50 on the on-ramp.

But it typically doesn’t take too long for a LeBron-led team to catch up to playoff speed. Once they do, it’s clear who has the more powerful and fresher engine. McCollum is laboring through a back issue. Nurkić spent much of the last year rehabbing from a horrific leg injury. Lillard and the Blazers have admitted to exhaustion.

If Portland can get up 2-1 and start sniffing upset, it gets real scary for the Lakers. If the Blazers fall down quick, they may bow out quick. That’s my guess.

Lakers in five.

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