By: Ravneet Singh
Western Conference Preview
Unlike the Eastern Conference, there are multiple must-watch series that should go to Game 6’s and 7’s. Let the bloodbath begin!
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Okay fine. This series may not be as mouthwatering as the other three. Although, there are still entreating narratives we should look out for. For example, this is the first time we will see the Brow post ridiculous numbers in the post-season. Anthony Davis is the league’s next biggest thing, and he will show what he can do on a larger stage.
It’s also important to note that the Pelicans are getting healthy at the right time. Jrue Holiday has missed the majority of the year but came back to play three of the last four games. The Pelicans’ best lineup that played meaningful minutes was the third was listed with Jrue:
If Anthony Davis doesn’t make that game winning shot in OKC earlier this year, New Orleans doesn’t make the playoffs. That’s how freakin’ close the Playoff race was. Their reward? Getting to face the best team in basketball this year – the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State has been a top-two defensive and offensive team this year. Stephen Curry is nearly impossible to guard. Draymond Green is a defensive juggernaut. Klay Thompson can go off in any quarter. And they are completely healthy. Have fun New Orleans!
Warriors in 4
(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
A Texas showdown! This has the possibility of being the most interesting series, because these teams don’t necessarily like each other and the play in the same state. This series also has some potential, because of the whole Chandler Parsons situation that happened last summer.
Parsons has had trouble staying healthy this year, but you have to think he wants to have the series of his life after what Harden said when Parsons signed with Dallas:
“Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”
Dallas has struggled against the better Western Conference teams, finishing with a 13-17 record against teams over .500 in the West. However, they have one of the best coaches in the game, and Carlisle will find a way to exploit certain matchups. One way they can do that is by the hack-a-someone strategy. Houston has some horrible free throw shooters in Howard, Capela, Smith, and Dorsey.
It’s also important to note that even though Harden is having a career and MVP-type season, he still hasn’t played all that well come playoff time when he’s wearing a Rockets’ jersey. His percentages from the regular season tend to drop in the playoffs:
The Rockets are of the most interesting stories of the year. Harden carried them to the 2nd seed in a brutal Western Conference with so many key players out for so long. Finally, Houston will have Dwight back, but make no mistake about it: Harden will have to play his ass off like he did in the regular season for them to make it past Dallas.
Rockets in 7
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Personally, I will go out of my way to make sure I do not miss a game in this series. It has the most potential for an exciting series in my opinion. Looking at the previous Playoff match-up you might think I am taking some foreign medication. San Antonio swept the Los Angeles back in 2012.
During the regular season the Spurs won three of the four meetings between the two teams. The Clippers are coming in red hot from the regular season finishing 14-1 (only loss was to the Warriors). But the Spurs finished the season 11-1 (the loss was to the Pelicans).
You can write it down that Popovich will Hack-a-Jordan in this series like he did in the regular season. In one game Jordan shot 28 free throws and only made 10!
One difference from the last time these teams met was the bench play of the Clippers. Back then the Clippers bench was arguably better with Bledsoe and Crawford running things. They still have Crawford, but the Clippers rank 22nd in the league in bench points, according to HoopsStat.com. The Spurs rank 2nd in the league in bench points, just behind the Celtics.
With both teams finishing the season off so well, one would have to assume a great series. San Antonio, however, looked better during that stretch and is the better team when both teams are playing their best ball.
Spurs in 6
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
Unlike the last series where both teams were coming in white hot into the Playoffs, the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies are limping into the post-season. During the last nine games, the Blazers are 3-6. The Grizzlies aren’t playing much better, finishing the last eleven games at 5-6.
The Blazers haven’t had much luck this year with all the injuries. Dorell Wright and Wes Matthews were big losses, especially Matthews, since he’s their best defensive player. The NBA did gift them with the fourth seen, thanks to divisional rules, when they actually have the sixth best record in the West. Home court advantage still goes to the Grizzlies, but they have a better chance against the Grizz than they would with some of the other teams in the Conference.
Memphis tends to pick up their play come Playoff time. They were the 8th seed in 2011, yet they beat the top ranked Spurs. Last year, Memphis was a seventh seed, yet they forced a Game 7 against OKC. It was feasible for them to win that series if Randolph didn’t get suspended and Conley was 100%.
Expect Memphis to bring their “A” game once again. Although Portland has plenty of reason to be depressed, they won’t give up so easily. I give Memphis the edge, because of their post-season experience and success, as well as the fact that they have home court.
Grizzlies in 7