This is part two of the playoffs preview, this time focusing on the Western Conference. San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers seem to have locked up the top three seeds. There is still a battle for home court advantage between Houston and Portland. Golden State, Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix are the four teams battling for the last three spots. Who is going to be the odd team out?
Here’s a preview of the Western Conference first-round matchups if the playoffs began today.
1- San Antonio Spurs vs. 8- Memphis Grizzlies, Spurs lead season series 3-0
A rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Finals, with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter squaring off against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Spurs have the best record and share the basketball better than any other team (ranked 1st in assists per game) but could be tested in a seven-game series by a physical Grizzlies team. The Grizzlies aren’t an elite offensive team but in the playoffs when the game slows down, they will have to rely on their defense which ranks third in points allowed.
4- Houston Rockets vs. 5- Portland Trail Blazers, Rockets won season series 3-1
All four regular season meetings were high scoring affairs. The Rockets rank third in scoring and have a plethora of perimeter shooters surrounding James Harden and Dwight Howard. The Trail Blazers could opt to play small ball and slide LaMarcus Aldridge over to center to drag Howard away from the hoop and reduce his effectiveness on the defensive end. Another key thing to watch: the Trail Blazers bench (or lack thereof).
3- Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6- Golden State Warriors, season series tied 2-2
Blake Griffin has brought his game to an MVP-caliber level but the premier matchup in this series is between Chris Paul and Stephen Curry, arguably the top two point guards today. Paul is more of the traditional pass-first point guard, while Curry does a little bit of everything offensively and is notorious for being a sniper from three point land. Griffin will have his work cut out for him going against David Lee and Andrew Bogut on the inside. Between the shooting of the Splash Brothers (Curry and Klay Thompson) and the alley oops thrown to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, you can expect each game to be an offensive shootout.
2- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 7- Dallas Mavericks, Mavericks won season series 2-1
Does the old timer Dirk Nowitzki have one last deep playoff run in him? The only problem is that he has the MVP leader Kevin Durant waiting for him in the first round. Surprisingly, the Mavericks won the season series, in which one of the games was a blowout. A healthy Russell Westbrook will give Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and the crew plenty of problems, and you can expect Westbrook to play with a chip on his shoulder as he missed all of last year’s playoffs. The Mavericks rank 23rd in points allowed and 26th in rebounding, while the Thunder are top 10 in both categories.