Yesterday I gave you my take on the Eastern Conference first round playoff match-ups and now I have the pleasure of breaking down the West. I say ‘pleasure’ because let’s face it, the West is far more interesting to discuss knowing the East is all about Miami and everyone else. I went straight chalk in the Eastern Conference and went with the favorites but I think a couple of those series offer some potentially gritty games that should be good television viewing.
So do I have any upsets for the West or do I stay with favorites again? Check it all below.
8 Houston at 1 Oklahoma City – The Rockets were 1-2 against Oklahoma City during the regular season and not surprisingly, these games were high-scoring. Obviously the main story here is the return of former Thunder star James Harden who has had a great year for the Rockets. We know Houston can score and frankly that’s the only way they will beat the Thunder is by getting into a track meet with OKC.
The one reason I just can’t pull the upset lever here is defense. The Rockets just don’t play any and the Thunder also rebound the ball pretty well and while I can see the Rockets getting a game or two in this series, they can’t do enough to stop Kevin Durant and company.
Prediction: Thunder in 5
7 LA Lakers at 2 San Antonio – I was buying what Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was saying more than a week ago in that the Lakers would beat the Spurs in the first round. That of course was with Kobe Bryant on the floor and that won’t be the case now with Bryant lost for the season with the Achilles injury. That doesn’t mean that the Lakers can’t make this a series with their presence inside.
The playoffs will actually allow the Spurs to get healthy with the ridiculously long breaks between games in the playoffs and that will benefit them. I do believe the Lakers push the Spurs but not enough.
Prediction: Spurs in 6
6 Golden State at 3 Denver – The Nuggets are pretty heavily favored heading into this one and with good reason but I wouldn’t count out the Warriors just yet. Denver will certainly push the ball up and down the court which has made them the highest-scoring team in the league but they also rebound the ball extremely well too.
The Warriors are no slouches in the scoring and rebounding department though and they will look to create mis-matches on the offensive end to create high-percentage shots. Steph Curry and David Lee pose a strong 1-2 punch but I like the balance and athleticism of the Nuggets just a little too much and I love their play on their home-court.
Prediction: Nuggets in 7
5 Memphis at 4 LA Clippers – I’m telling you right now this one is going seven games and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t. This really is the ultimate battle of offense versus defense with one exception. The Clippers play pretty good defense too. This series will come down to opportunities in my mind.
Can the Clippers get out and run the way they are used to or will Memphis be able to get back and defend in the half-court? If they can force the Clippers into being a half-court team then they should be able to force this series to the limit. The problem for the Grizzlies as I see it is can they hit shots when they need them? They haven’t missed Rudy Gay as much as many thought they would but this is where his absence is most felt.
Prediction: Clippers in 7