Warriors

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers: What to watch in Western Conference finals

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers: What to watch in Western Conference finals

With the Portland Trail Blazers overcoming a big deficit to stun the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, the Warriors' Western Conference finals matchup is confirmed. 

The best-of-seven series will pair the defending NBA champs against Oakland native Damian Lillard, who most certainly will be ready to play his hometown Warriors in their last year in The Town.

Golden State will enter the series as the overwhelming favorite, but the team, as has been the case all year, is not immune to complacency.

[RELATED: Where Steph's epic second half stands in Dubs, NBA history]

Here are the biggest things to watch heading into the series.

Projected starting lineups 

Warriors
F Andre Iguodala
F Draymond Green
C Andrew Bogut
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Blazers
F Al-Farouq Aminu
F Maurice Harkless
C Enes Kanter
G Damian Lillard
G CJ McCollum

The Warriors will be without Kevin Durant for at least the first two games of the series with a calf injury. DeMarcus Cousins also could make his return from a torn quad in this series if he continues to progress in his rehab.

Still, the Warriors have the healthy Splash Brother duo of Curry and Thompson, who single-handily shot the team out of the second round Friday.

The Warriors will have their hands full with Portland's backcourt of Lillard and McCullum, who helped the Blazers overcome a 17-point deficit Sunday to reach the conference finals. Lillard has been particularly good against the Warriors this season, averaging 28.3 points and 6.5 assists in four matchups.

Edge: Warriors

Bench

Like the Warriors, the Blazers have struggled to get contributions from its second unit this season, finishing the regular season 21st in bench scoring.

However, this postseason has featured the resurgence of Rodney Hood, who is averaging 10 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.

Still, the Warriors’ second unit mostly has been non-existent.

Edge: Trail Blazers

[RELATED: Full Warriors-Blazers WCF schedule]

Coaching

Coach Terry Stotts has guided the Blazers to six consecutive playoff berths, including a third-place Western Conference finish this year in the regular season. Under Stotts' tutelage, Lillard and McCullum have developed into bona fide stars.

However, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has presided over the best six-year run in NBA history and is on pace to win his fourth championship in five years. 

Edge: Warriors

Why Warriors thought Steve Kerr wasn't considering coaching job in 2014

Why Warriors thought Steve Kerr wasn't considering coaching job in 2014

After the Warriors moved on from Mark Jackson as head coach in 2014, the search narrowed on two final candidates: former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and then-TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr.

Former Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk was part of the team that interviewed both contenders and says the front office at one point wasn’t sure they’d even get a chance to sit down with Kerr during the process.

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“Steve was being courted very hard by Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks,” Schlenk said on 95.7 The Game last week. “And at one point during the process, it felt like that’s where he was going to go. And so we didn’t think that we were going to even have an opportunity to really sit down and talk with Steve.

“And I believe it was while we were meeting with Stan down in Orlando, that Steve called Bob and said he kinda had a change of heart and he wanted to meet with us.”

Kerr’s relationship with Jackson went all the way back to their days with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, which America just got to relive through ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series.

[RELATED: Best Warriors' 10-man lineup using their draft picks over last 30 years]

Van Gundy ultimately chose the Detroit Pistons, giving him an opportunity to oversee basketball operations as well as coach the team. Reports at the time indicated the Warriors were not willing to give Van Gundy the same universal control over basketball decision-making.

It’s safe to say Schlenk and the Warriors got the right guy, as Kerr helped bring three NBA championships to the Bay Area and the team’s success eventually led Schlenk to taking over as the Atlanta Hawks’ GM, where he’s been since 2017.

Where Steph Curry-Klay Thompson rank on list of NBA's best duos

Where Steph Curry-Klay Thompson rank on list of NBA's best duos

While superteams have been all the rage recently in the NBA, basketball history is littered with incredible one-two punches that ran roughshod over their competition.

From Bill Russell and Bob Cousy to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, NBA history has more or less gone as the dynamic duos have gone.

Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West put on a show in the 70s, while Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dueled with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in the 1980s. The 1990s belonged to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before giving way to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s.

But who are the best duos in NBA history? Let's find out.

CLICK FOR 10 BEST NBA DYNAMIC DUOS