The NBA playoffs are here and a champion will be crowned soon. But before we even get to the NBA Finals, let’s take a look at the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs…
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #8 Portland Trailblazers
If Jusuf Nurkic was healthy, I’d consider giving Portland another game here. Portland was rolling with the addition of their new big man and his size would give the smaller than previous years Warriors a lot of trouble. Damian Lillard is liable to go off for 40 any night and C.J. McCollum should help him keep the Blazers alive through three quarters of most of their games this postseason. Golden State just has too much on both sides – the ability to put Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Matt Barnes and Klay Thompson on either of Portland’s lead guards should overwhelm them. I think that Dame Dolla and Co. will defend his home court at least one game, but anything beyond that is asking too much.
Prediction: Golden State in 5
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs just keep on churning with Kawhi Leonard taking the title of franchise player by the throat. Even with a healthy Tony Allen, I don’t know that Memphis has enough to truly compete with San Antonio. Marc Gasol could give them some trouble in the post and should be able to overwhelm big brother Pau, David Lee and Dwayne Deadmon. Vince Carter continues to be a revelation and defy all age standards we had about the NBA. But the Spurs are too deep, too well coached and just too good. They should roll this series.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
#3 Houston Rockets vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder
I can’t help but think that the Russell Westbrook tour we’ve witnessed this season is set to continue. This would be the perfect format for The Brodie to put a lock on his MVP case (though all votes were due April 14) and silence his critics that say he was stat padding. Oklahoma City won 78.6% of the time when Russ recorded a triple double and they’ll lean on him more than ever. Luckily for them, neither Mike D’Antoni nor the Rockets are known for their lockdown defense. This works twofold however – the Rockets score a blistering 115.3 points per game and James Harden is the engine that makes that team go. Getting into a shootout with a team that averages 40.3 threes per game might not be what Oklahoma City wants to do. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Russell Westbrook will just go nuclear in more than one game this postseason and it starts here in this series.
Prediction: Oklahoma City in 7
#4 Utah Jazz vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers
I’ll be completely honest: I don’t believe in this Clippers team. I think they should’ve been broken up last off-season and I don’t believe in Doc Rivers the GM to mold a competent team. Chris Paul does everything, but he’s also never lead a team to the conference finals. Fun fact: since 2000, only two NBA teams have yet to reach the conference finals – the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers. Notice a trend there? Utah goes 12 deep and is well coached. Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan should be a really fun matchup, maybe the best big man matchup of the postseason. In the end, I have much more faith in Utah than I do the Clippers.
Prediction: Utah in 6