Game Eight – Nets vs Trail Blazers
Brooklyn’s only matchup against Portland this year truly played out as a game for the ages, with the Nets narrowly walking away with a 119-115 road victory. But without Irving this time around, who contributed 33 points to the team’s prior victory, things naturally become far more difficult.
Slowing down Damian Lillard obviously tops Brooklyn’s “to do” list when playing against Portland, and they find themselves with nowhere to go but up after surrendering 60 points to him last time around. As a premier player, Lillard highlights this game as the best player set to hit the hardwood by a wide margin.
Likely still causing nightmares for Oklahoma City Thunder fans, Lillard remains the last person any opposing NBA team might want to get hot. So to keep him on ice, look for the Nets to trap him often and try to dictate the game’s flow early on.
C.J. McCollum threatens as a dangerous weapon poised to hurt the Nets as well, but this remains a “pick your poison” situation for a depleted team like the Nets, and Lillard’s venom stings a bit more menacingly than his backcourt partner’s.
But moving on from Lillard, only a few other teams averaged more screen assists than Portland this year, so fighting through any man-made roadblocks remains crucial to their defensive efforts as well.
Putting an emphasis on perimeter defense seems wise too, as only the Utah Jazz, Miami Heat, and Pelicans shot better from three than the Blazers.
As a final game for the Nets likely holding massive playoff implications, this contest reeks with pressure, but if they slow down Lillard, break through any pesky screens, deny the three-point shot, and keep their cool, this matchup likely ends with Brooklyn securing a dub and hopefully celebrating their either recently clinched or now furtherly maintained playoff position.