Here we go Trail Blazers! Game 7! It’s only fitting that the Blazers post-season journey has been against only division rivals thus far. You win this game; you own the division and move into the Western Conference Finals. They lose? Fans will always wonder “what if” with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic.
Yet here we are on the pinnacle of the Blazers greatest post-season run since 99-00 when they lost to the Lakers 4-3 in the Western Conference Finals. There has been no shortage of Iconic moments between Damien Lillard’s goodbye shot to Rodney Hood sealing the deal on a 4-OT victory over earlier in the series to get to this point. Will we witness another iconic moment? Can the Blazers get back to the Western Conference Finals again? In order to make the idea a reality, there are a few key areas the Blazers must execute on to bring games back to Portland.
In a series that makes it to game 7, both teams typically have experimented and know what works and what doesn’t. It all comes down to who can execute better in the finale.
What the Blazers need in game 7
Limit Jokic’s passing – Jokic will get plenty of touches, Blazers need to disrupt the passing lanes and get him out of rhythm. The Blazers found some success with this by being physical with him away from the basket and not letting him get the ball at the top of the key where he can go anywhere with the ball.
Don’t let Jamaal Murray get to the foul line – Zach Collins must be patient at the rim. He’s been a big difference maker this series and the Blazers can’t allow easy buckets from Murray. Damien Lillard must also stay in front of him. In Game 6 Collins was patient and waited for Murray to come to him and didn’t close out in an over-aggressive fashion. Collins had five blocks, a few of those shots were Murray’s.
Bench scoring – The Blazers will need Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, Collins, and Seth Curry and the remainder of the bench to continue producing. Some have wondered if Hood and Collins should move into the starting rotation as they have been much more productive against the Nuggets in the last few games.
Interior scoring – Enes Kanter will be key in keeping pressure off the guards by producing easy buckets in the paint. Here it would be nice to see Terry Stotts use Collins and even buy some minutes from Meyers Leonard. Leonard is a big dude and if he’s pounding down on you for a few minutes it’s going to tire you out. Making Jokic work on both sides of the floor will be an advantage to Portland. At some point, those 65 minutes from Game 4 are going to catch up to him.
Have someone else guard Paul Milsap – I don’t know what Terry Stotts fascination is with having Evan Turner guard and be humiliated by Milsap is. I do not understand it at all. Milsap has eaten Turner alive all over the court. One of the reasons Portland’s bench falls behind is because Milsap has feasted on the Portland second unit. Collins has done a decent job at slowing down Milsap when he’s on him, but far too often it is Turner who draws the assignment and when he isn’t the one on him Denver does a fantastic job getting a switch.
Things could get nasty for the Blazers if they allow Jokic easy passes, Murray and Will Barton open looks at the rim and allowing Millsap room to work.
Gametime starts at 12:30 Sunday, 5/11 on ABC. One thing is for certain, the Blazers have left their mark as a contender in the NBA this season.