NBA Playoff Preview: Western Conference Preview
We are finally here. After a long regular season of NBA basketball filled with arguments over rest, beefs between former legends and current bums and their mothers, and the tightest MVP race possibly of all time, the playoffs are upon us. What can we expect in the West? Here’s a preview with some of my predictions:
Warriors (1) vs. Trailblazers (8) - Even though this series will probably be over in 4 or 5 games the job Portland did after all star break to even capture the 8 seed is highly commendable. The Trailblazers go as Damian and CJ go and those two have been the main reasons that Portland finds themselves back in the playoffs. I think its a damn shame that Damian Lillard hasn’t been voted to an all star game in his career because he definitely is one and has been playing big time since the middle mark of the season. Unfortunately, they open the playoffs against a Warriors team with four all stars and championship continuity so there’s only so much you can expect the Blazers to do here. IF Jusuf Nurkic was completely healthy and wasn’t trying to play with a fracture in his leg that could propel the Blazers to causing Golden State some issues down low. With him being surely on a minutes restriction, Draymond and Durant with help from McGee should be able to handle Festus Ezeli and Myers Leonard comfortably. Durant scored in double figures every game he’s played since coming back from that knee injury and his last game he finally got hot from three. The Warriors were already on a winning streak before he returned so I can’t honestly say I see this opening round series being as competitive as the 1 vs. 8 in the east.
My prediction: Warriors win series 4-0
Spurs (2) vs. Grizzlies (7) - This series should win an award for most likely to be the most boring playoff series ever broadcasted on National TV in any sport. Two franchises that don’t have flash; just sound honest fundamentals. Take Johnathan Simmons and an occasional Kawhi dunk out of the occasion and you’re most likely going to see some fast break layups as your highlights. I do find this series intriguing though because in the paint it will be a legit battle but I give the edge to Memphis with Gasol and Randolph. All of Spain will be tuning in to watch the Gasol brothers battle it out but I will be watching the play of Mike Conley. If Popovich doesn’t put Kawhi on him I expect him to EAT. Tony Parker and Patty Mills are not guarding him so he should have a great series in my opinion. Tony Allen will have his hands full trying to guard Kawhi but of course he is up for any defensive challenge. The biggest factor here is Chandler Parsons, and because of that I believe the Spurs can win this series. If Chandler was able to remain healthy this year and show flashes of the Houston Rockets Chandler Parsons and put pressure on Danny Green on the wing I believe the Grizzlies had a more realistic chance of advancing to the second round. Without having that wing threat, no offense Vince, I think Danny Green will be free to work, and Kawhi will be Kawhi. I do however expect Memphis to be able to win a couple of games especially at home with their bigs and Conley.
My prediction: Spurs win series 4-2
Rockets (3) vs. Thunder (6) - This series most likely will get the most attention for obvious reasons. The MVP race has had 4 names thrown out in the conversation but all real NBA watchers know it’s been between Houston’s Harden and Westbrook from the Thunder. Both of these guys deserve the award and will be show you reasons why in this series. Coach D’antoni who will most likely win coach of the year also propelled his team to break the single season 3 record, which he’s done before with past teams. The consistency of Clint Capella for Houston has been huge for them and then the acquisition of Lou Williams to go along with Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and Ryan Andersen really looks scary with Harden running that show. The question is will those three’s continue to rain. For the Thunder their advantage is down low with Adams and Kanter and now Taj Gibson. Oklahoma City has to feed their bigs in order for them to have a chance in this series, and Westbrook can’t have empty fast break trips. One thing the Thunder want to avoid in this series is getting in a shooting competition with the Rockets because they simply don't have the players to compete. The Thunder need to slow it down and play inside out and Westbrook has to know when to press the gas and when to ease off of it. On the outside Oladipo needs to give Westbrook consistent help with at least double figures every game, and if Roberson could hit a three once in a while that would help, but that’s wishful thinking. This is a tough series for me to pick due to my sports infatuation with RUSS, but I just don’t think he has enough wings to compete. If OKC can play excellent defense all series and slow down the pace they can win, but that’s not an easy task to do against Harden.
My Prediction: Houston wins series 4-3
Clippers (4) vs. Jazz (5) - This is the series I personally look forward to seeing the most that won't get talked about as much. For one reason the 10pm west coast games usually have people sleep by halftime especially during the regular season so most people don’t even know anything about the Jazz. These two teams have been very chippy and physical during the regular season matchups and they both expect for that physical play to only heighten in this playoff series. This is a MUST win for the clippers. You have three players that have all been all stars in your big three of Blake, DeAndre, and CP3. The Jazz have Gordon Heyward and have a good big man in Goobers but they have no J.J Reddick, no Jamal Crawford, and no Doc Rivers. The Jazz are extremely good defensively but I absolutely expect the Clippers to figure it out. Blake and DeAndre will have their hands full wit Favors, Lyles and good ole Boris Diaw all in rotation but that’s why their on all these commercials because their big time players. CP3 should have no problem with George Hill on either end of the floor and if Austin can come off the bench and give 12 a game the Jazz will be in trouble. The name of the game for the Clippers is push the ball, the last thing you want to do against Utah is get into a slow down grind it out small number of possessions game. The Jazz cannot get into a scoring battle in this series and expect to win.
My Prediction: Clippers win series 4-2