How Warriors have slowed Blazers star Damian Lillard in West finals

How Warriors have slowed Blazers star Damian Lillard in West finals

The Warriors know that the only way the Portland Trail Blazers can beat them in the Western Conference finals is if Damian Lillard goes nuts.

They aren't about to let him do that.

Lillard averaged 25.8 points per game during the regular season on 44 percent shooting, leading the Blazers to the West's No. 3 playoff seed. But through two games against the Warriors, Lillard is averaging 21 points per game on just 10-of-28 shooting (35.7 percent) from the field.

During the series, Lillard's average shot has come 29.1 feet away from the rim, according to ESPN's Kirk Goldberry. While he's shooting an incredible 42.1 percent on those looks, the Warriors have stopped Lillard from getting to the rim. In fact, they've stopped him from even attempting shots at the rim.

During the regular season, the Blazers star averaged more than 11 points per game inside the arc, per Goldberry. He has scored just six total points inside the arc through two games against the Warriors. He took an average of 6.5 shots inside 8 feet per game during the regular season, but he has attempted just three during the series against the Warriors.

Golden State's defense has suffocated Lillard in the first two games, leading to the Warriors taking a two-games-to-zero series lead.

A lot of the credit should go to Klay Thompson, who has hounded Lillard during the series. When guarded by Thompson, Lillard is averaging just 18.1 shots per 100 possessions and 12.1 points per game. 

Aside from Thompson, the Warriors have blitzed Lillard on the pick-and-roll a lot this series. In Game 2, the Warriors blitzed Lillard 19 times, according to Goldberry, which is the most any player has faced during a game this postseason.

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Lillard has done his best to combat the blitzes, finding Enes Kanter, Zach Collins or Meyers Leonard on the roll. Unfortunately for the Blazers, neither of those three players is great at finding the open man once the defense rotates, and their finishing around the rim leaves something to be desired. 

Toward the end of Game 2, Blazers coach Terry Stotts elected to run the pick-and-roll with Evan Turner instead of a big, a formula he sparingly used during the regular season. That could be something Stotts goes to early in Saturday's Game 3 to try and get Lillard loose.

The Blazers will have to find a way to free up Lillard and beat the blitz in Game 3 at Moda Center, or else their postseason could end very soon. 

Rockets GM Daryl Morey explains why Chris Paul not on trading block

Rockets GM Daryl Morey explains why Chris Paul not on trading block

Back on May 29, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the following:

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has made his entire roster and future draft picks available in trade talks, a dramatic initiative with hopes of reshaping the team into a championship contender, league sources told ESPN.

On Tuesday morning, Morey was a guest on The Dan Patrick Show and was asked if he wants to change his team this offseason.

"We're very aggressive," Morey said. "I actually called Woj after his story came out saying we're changing everything. And I was like, 'Really? Is that news that we're gonna be aggressive to try and get better and do a trade if it makese sense?'

"We've generated a lot of clicks in the last few weeks for some reason."

For some reason? Since the Rockets lost to the Warriors in Game 6 of the second round of the NBA playoffs, there have been a plethora of stories coming out of Houston.

And for good reason, actually.

So what does Morey mean when he says that Houston is very aggressive?

"The main thing is that we're going after one of these top free agents and because of that, it's probably gonna have to be a trade," Morey revealed. "It has to be through sign-and-trade."

Houston's general manager then made it very clear that James Harden and Chris Paul are not available via trade.

"We were the best team down the stretch. We've spent a lot of time putting together two superstars. We're trying to add a third," Morey said. "Going backward from that doesn't make a lot of sense to us."

Hmmmmm. Perhaps CP3 was on the trading block three weeks ago when Woj issued his report but things have changed? Perhaps CP3 is still available but Morey doesn't want to declare that publicly?

On Monday, ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta "has grumbled about Paul's contract, expressing regret to Rockets staffers and even in front of rival executives, according to league sources."

Paul has three more seasons remaining on his deal:

--2019-20 = $38,506,482
--2020-21 = $41,358,814
--2021-22 = $44,211,146 (player option that will assuredly be exercised)

By saying that Harden and Paul are the only two Rockets who will definitely return next season, Morey essentially admitted that Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker are certainly available in trades.

Not many general managers are this transparent when it comes to future plans.

[RELATEDRaptors' Green reveals what Dubs said after Klay's injury]

Despite all the turmoil in Houston the last six weeks, Morey is very confident about his team's chances next season.

"We can win the title," he declared. "We feel like we're the favorites in the West going into next season and that should be the story."

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Does Dion Waiters make sense as potential trade option for Warriors?

Does Dion Waiters make sense as potential trade option for Warriors?

The Warriors have some work to do this offseason.

After suffering a devastating loss to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals, the Dubs enter the offseason with both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson hitting free agency after suffering catastrophic injuries in the championship round. After tearing his ACL in Game 6, it seems likely that Thompson will re-sign with the Warriors. It always seemed like a long shot that he would leave the team that drafted him, but after suffering the knee injury it appears to be a near lock that he'll re-up with Golden State. Regardless, he'll still be out until at least February while he rehabs.

As for Durant, the torn Achilles he suffered in Game 5 is unlikely to cost him the max contract he has rightfully earned. The Warriors reportedly will offer Durant the five-year max, but his future is still very much up in the air. 

Thompson and Durant both will be out for the majority if not all of next season, so the Warriors will have to find a way to pick up some wing players to fill the void this offseason.

So, who could be an option? Well, I hope you're into the island life because it's possible that (Dion) Waiters island could be moving from South Beach to the Bay Area.

In a recent article, ESPN's Kevin Pelton floated the idea of the Warriors making a deal with the Miami Heat to acquire the Syracuse product, noting the Heat reportedly are looking to get off the remaining three years of the four-year, $52 million deal Waiters inked with Miami last offseason.

But would Waiters be a good fit for the Warriors?

Yes and no.

Without Thompson out until at least February and with Durant out for the season -- if not gone altogether -- the Warriors will need scoring next to Steph Curry.

That's something Waiters is all too happy to try and provide.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft can get ultra hot at times. Remember Jan. 23, 2017? No?

In case you forgot, Waiters gave the Warriors a front-row ticket to just how hot he could get that night. He scored 33 points on 13-for-20 shooting while going 6-of-8 from 3-point range, including the game-winning triple with 0.6 seconds remaining. On the other hand, that game also saw the Heat blow a 10-point lead late that included a Waiters air-ball from 15 feet.

With Waiters, the Warriors would get a guard who is unafraid to take and make big shots. He'd give Golden State some scoring pop next to Curry, which they desperately will need next season.

Unfortunately, Waiters isn't an efficient scorer and can go ice cold from time-to-time. For his career, Waiters has averaged 13.2 points on just 41 percent shooting from the field.

Waiters is a gunner in the truest sense. While a Curry-Waiters backcourt could give opposing defenses issues, Waiters also would make Steve Kerr rip his hair out at times.

But it's all part of the experience.

[RELATED: Warriors' psychological edge is completely gone]

It's also a little difficult to see a trade getting worked out numbers-wise.

If the Warriors re-sign Thompson for the expected five years, $190 million and lose Durant, they would still committed to spending somewhere around $118 million for Thompson, Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Jacob Evans, Alfonzo McKinnie and Damian Jones.

If Shaun Livingston doesn't retire and the Warriors bring him back, you can tack on another $7.5 million for the 2019-20 season (if the Dubs cut Livingston, they'll still be on the books for $2M). The salary cap is set to be $109 million, so the Warriors would already be in the luxury tax before adding Waiters' $12.5 million.

Ultimately, it's hard to see a deal being worked out between the two sides.

It's far more likely the Warriors look to the free agent market and look for veteran wings who don't get the offers they are expecting this summer (i.e. Wes Matthews, Wayne Ellington, etc.).