NBA playoff predictions - Can Lillard and the Trail Blazers upset the Lakers?

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles up the court.
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

NBA· 1 year ago

Show Bio

Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. LeBron James (and Anthony Davis) vs. Damian Lillard (and CJ McCollum). Get your popcorn ready for a series that is getting well-deserved hype from the media and has a decent chance of living up to that hype on the court.

It begins on Tuesday night, when the Lakers have opened as -5.5 favorites in Game 1 (check out out free NBA expert picks for every playoff game).

This is the first time the Lakers and Trail Blazers have squared off in the playoffs since 2001-02 and the first time they have met in a best-of-seven series since their epic seven-game extravaganza in the 1999-2000 Western Conference Finals.

What to make of the Lakers’ struggles?

At what level is the panic meter in L.A. right now? It’s hard to say.

On one hand, the regular season is the regular season. The Lakers locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference just three games into the restart with victories over two of the top six teams in the West (the Clippers and Jazz). Thereafter, they pretty much went through the motions without showing too much interest–suffering losses to Oklahoma City, Houston, Indiana, and Sacramento while going 1-4 in their last five-regular season games. This is nothing new for a LeBron-led juggernaut, either. In 2011-12, the Heat compiled a 1-3 in their last four regular-season contests and went on to win it all for LeBron’s first NBA title. In 2015-16, the Cavaliers also went 1-3 in their last four regular-season outings before ultimately capturing the Larry O’Brien trophy (LeBron’s third title). Just as practice is not the same as a game (thanks, Allen Iverson), the regular season is not the same as the playoffs (LeBron knows this better than anyone).

On the other hand, these Lakers have been shockingly poor in Orlando–borderline bad, even. They have been an absolute disaster, in fact, on the offensive end of the floor. In eight bubble games, Los Angeles was better than only Washington in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). The Lakers’ 104.7 OEFF barely beat the Wizards’ 103.4 OEFF and–let’s be honest–the Wizards were not even pretending to try in their eight games and should not have been invited to the restart. Perhaps even more alarming is that L.A. was second-to-last (again, ahead of only Washington) in point differential. That’s right; the Lakers’ average result in eight regular-season bubble games was a loss by seven points.

Lillard lighting it up

As lackluster as the Lakers have been, it is going to require more than a one-man show to oust them from the playoffs. That being said, Lillard by himself could go a long way toward making this series interesting. Named unanimous MVP of the bubble even ahead of Devin Booker (led the Suns to an amazing 8-0 record), Lillard averaged 33.9 points per game in the final eight. And that hardly tells the full story. His last three point outputs were 51, 61, and 42 points in a historic streak of basketball. He shot at least 53.1 percent from the floor in those three victories and went 17-for-31 from three-point range in the last two games.

Lillard finally cooled off during a 126-122 play-in win over Memphis, but McCollum went crazy in the fourth quarter to finish with 29 points on 11-for-19 shooting. Big man Jusuf Nurkic is back from a broken leg and he dominated the Grizzlies in just about every way with 22 points, 21 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals. Gary Trent Jr. has also been stellar in Orlando, so there is no doubt that the depth advantage goes to Lillard’s supporting cast as opposed to that of LeBron and A.D.

So…what will happen?

Lakers in 6 is arguably the most likely outcome–it is the second-most likely outcome according to the odds at +300 (Lakers in 5 is +275). Neither of those plays, however, seem like particularly good value. Combine Los Angeles’ mediocrity in the bubble with Lillard’s current propensity to take over any game and (if you don’t want to pick the outright upset) what you get is Lakers in 7 at +550 possibly being the most prudent choice.

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook

$50

Get $50 Free - No Deposit Required!

Register for a FanDuel Sportsbook account

Receive $50 in site credits to use on Sportsbook

No Deposit Required!

Winnings paid as CASH. 21+ and new players only. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

DraftKings

$100

Win $100 if any team scores a point in any NFL, NBA, CFB, or CBB game!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $1+ any NFL, NBA, CFB, or CBB game Money Line

If your team wins, you will be issued a $100 free bet bonus!

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

Caesars Sportsbook

$1,001

Get a $1,001 Free Bet!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,001

Win or lose, you'll receive a free bet matching your initial stake - up to $1,001!

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing

$200

$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$400

Get a $400 Risk-Free Bet on the Breeders' Cup!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code PICKS400

Place a bet on the Breeders' Cup

Receive a refund if your first bet loses up to $400

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.