Slaughter: Why the Blazers will make the Western Conference Finals

Brenden Slaughter Associate Sports Editor

Three injuries opened the door for the Portland Trail Blazers to get to the Western Conference Finals on April 25:

First when reigning MVP Stephen Curry was told that he wouldn’t be able to play for the better part of two weeks due to a sprained MCL.

It was at that moment, when both the Blazers, and the L.A. Clippers saw an opportunity. The winner of their series would most likely be playing the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs.

Let’s be clear though, at full strength the Warriors are the best team in the NBA, and it isn’t even close. They won an NBA record 73 games this season, and have the best starting lineup in the NBA that consists of Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. Not to mention, they have the reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala coming off the bench.

Pretty scary right?

But, when you remove Curry from the Warriors equation. They suddenly look extremely vulnerable. The Dubs are suddenly in need of 30 points, five rebounds, and two steals per game. When 30 points are just suddenly gone from the stat sheet, it is going to cause a problem for the defending champs in the second round. A problem that the Clippers had aspirations of exploiting.

Well until the third quarter of last night’s matchup between the Clippers and Blazers, the Clips still looked like they had the advantage in the series. They still controlled homecourt advantage, and looked primed to finish the series off in L.A.

One crack changed the Clippers season ten fold. That crack was the sound of Chris Paul’s third metacarpal bone breaking as he went for a steal. In one fail swoop, Paul was done, and if that wasn’t bad enough for the Clippers, just moments later, All-Star Blake Griffin was hobbling to the locker room as well.

Just like that, the Clippers lost the two All-Stars that make the Clippers. Both players are out for the rest of the playoffs, leaving Portland as the sudden favorite in the series. That’s quite a far cry from the preseason prediction that had the Blazers winning 26 games.

Sure, Portland would have probably not won this series if Paul and Griffin were healthy, but injuries happen, and for the Blazers the injury bug is finally in their favor.

I wish I could sympathise with the Clippers, but after Portland has had the careers of Bill Walton, Greg Oden, and Brandon Roy end by way of injury you learn to realize it’s just part of the game.

So what do all these injuries mean for the Blazers?

Simply put, the Blazers have to take care of business against the Clippers. They are tied up 2-2 in the series, with only one more game left in Portland, but essentially they are playing a rudderless ship. Without Paul and Griffin, the Clippers aren’t even a playoff team, so the Blazers should be able to advance to the second round, where another injury gives the Blazers a fighting chance.

If they advance to the next round, and matchup against the reigning champs, the Blazers will have two huge advantages. Firstly being that Curry will not be 100 percent healthy in the series, and finally the Blazers matchup very favorably with the Dubs.

I’m not saying that Portland has enough in the tank to upset the favorite to win the NBA Championship, but based on the Curry injury, the Blazers have a chance at making history and going to their first Western Conference Finals since the 1999-2000 season.

Sure, I may be reaching but injuries have a way of drastically changing a team’s chemistry and aura. I don’t think the Warriors are even close to the same team without Curry, and I think Terry Stotts and the Blazers have a very good chance of exploiting that.

And who knows, maybe the Blazers pull off the upset of the century and head to the Western Conference Finals vs the Spurs/Thunder.

If it’s the latter, the Blazers will be getting a chance to take on an old friend in Lamarcus Aldridge.

If that is the case, Blazers fans will get the opportunity to chant “BEAT LA” again.

On Twitter: @b_slaught

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