On Tuesday night Damian Lillard drilled an improbable 37-foot step back jumper over Paul George to give the Trail Blazers the walk-off victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It was a game winner. It was a series clincher. It was the thing movies are made of. In a series where Oklahoma City's rallying cry seemed to be "next question," they really should have been worrying about Lillard's next shot.
"The Shot," as it will probably go down in Blazers lore, sent Oklahoma City home and sent Portland to the second round. Now the "next question" on everyone's mind is, who will the Blazers play? Will it be the Denver Nuggets or the San Antonio Spurs? We could know as soon as Thursday night.
Denver leads the series 3-2, with Game 6 in San Antonio. You know the drill - Denver wins, they move on. San Antonio wins and we have a winner take all Game 7.
So who do you want the Blazers to play? Each team has its advantages and disadvantages.
Denver: The Blazers lost the season series to the Nuggets, 3-1. However, the Nuggets' three wins came by a combined total of just 13 points. That's just 4.3 points per game. Get a few extra spots, hit a couple extra buckets, and the Blazers win those games. With no Nurkic, Denver's Nikola Jokic will be a major problem. He is a triple-double threat any time he takes the court. Can the Blazers subdue Jokic and take the Nuggets down, I think they can. But it will be one tall task.
San Antonio: The Blazers split the season series with the Spurs, 2-2. San Antonio has played well in this series against the Nuggets, but winning it in seven would certainly be an upset. The Spurs could have been up 3-0, but they let Game 2 slip away, then the Nugget blew the doors off in both games four and five. San Antonio can be an up and down squad. If they're up, they can beat almost anyone. If they're down, they can lose to anyone. The Blazers match up very well with the Spurs, making this a favorable series for Portland.
Verdict: Give me the Spurs. First, the storyline of LaMarcus Aldridge versus the Trail Blazers in the playoffs is fantastic theater by itself. But the reality is the Blazers are a much better team than the Spurs. I just don't know if DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge can outplay and outscore Lillard and CJ McCollum over a seven-game series. Throw in the fact that Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless are playing their best ball of the season, and I think the Blazers are easily favored to beat San Antonio. I think the Nuggets are beatable too, but the Spurs would be better odds. But let's be real, real honest. It doesn't matter who the Blazers play. After two straight first-round sweeps getting a taste of the second round again is oh so sweet.
Bring on the Spurs.
Bring on the Nuggets.
Bring on the second round.
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