The Portland Trail Blazers were the closest thing to an underdog out of the eight teams with homecourt advantage in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
The oddsmakers’ thinking was logical: The Blazers were reeling with two significant injuries; the Thunder had experienced star power and had swept Portland 4-0 in the regular season. That made the sixth-seeded Thunder a very slight underdog at -106 against the Blazers, who had -118 odds to win the series before Game 1.
Trail Blazers Come Out Firing at Home
Maybe a playoff series doesn’t begin until a home team loses a game, but the Blazers made quite a statement in Portland in NBA betting circles.
Though Oklahoma City kept Game 1 close they only led for 23 seconds in the first quarter of a 104-99 Blazers win. And in Game 2, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 62 points in a 20-point blowout win. The Blazers trailed by as many as nine points but used a 37-21 third quarter to blow the doors open on the game – and potentially the series.
The results shouldn’t have been surprising. Portland was the NBA’s third best home team in net rating (8.1; only Milwaukee and Denver were better) and won 32 games at Moda Center, second in the West to Denver’s 34 home victories. They’ve won 10 straight home games – the last loss was in in early March against these Thunder.
Lillard has been a superstar through two games, averaging 29.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals. He also nearly has outshot the Thunder from beyond the arc (on much fewer attempts):
OKC through two games: 10-61 from 3— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 17, 2019
Damian Lillard through two games: 9-19 from 3
McCollum also appears healthy, a sight for sore eyes in Portland. He looked incredibly rusty in the two regular-season games he played after returning from a knee strain in mid-March. But he looks like his old self against the Thunder, averaging 28.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in nearly 37 minutes.Enes Kanter Filling in for Injured Nurkic
There were obvious concerns about who would carry the burden filling in for Jusuf Nurkic, who was having a career year before his gruesome season-ending leg injury. Enes Kanter did well in trying to fil that void, ending the regular season with 19.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in the final six games.
That momentum snowballed into the postseason when Kanter went for 20 points and 18 rebounds in a Game 1 victory, with Lillard calling him “the MVP of the game.” There’s no replacing Nurkic’s impact, but if Kanter can come close to his averages – he had just 6 points and 5 rebounds in Game 2 – the backcourt should take care of the rest.Thunder Vow to Improve
It’d be unwise to count out a team that boasts Russell Westbrook and Paul George. But to have a chance, Oklahoma City must get much more from Westbrook. The former MVP said after Game 2 that his 5-of-20 shooting performance was “unacceptable” and vowed that “I’m going to be better” as the series shifts to Oklahoma City.
The good news for the Thunder is that George’s shoulder appears healthy. The NBA MVP candidate has averaged 26.5 points through two games. Expect the defense to lock up in Oklahoma City; the Thunder were the fourth-best defensive home team in the NBA this year.Portland Now -250 Series Favorite
Oddsmakers took notice of the Blazers’ two commanding home wins. They’re now at -250 odds to win the series on 888Sport.com. The formula is pretty simple: Win one of two games in Oklahoma City and force the Thunder to win twice in Portland.
Oddsmakers clearly expect the Thunder to come out strong as home, making them 7-point favorites for Friday’s Game 3. The Thunder covered at home in the regular season both times against the Blazers as 4- and 5-point favorites, winning by nine points both times.