By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The NBA regular season has come to an end and now we’ve got the marathon of playoff basketball to take us to Mid-June. The Western Conference was stacked as usual during the regular season and provides multiple options for teams that could end up representing in the Finals. With the 1st round getting underway later this week, let’s take a look at the match-ups and how they break down for these squads. We’ll give you some predictions along the way, but seeing as this is the Western Conference, the predictions will more than likely be wrong. Terribly wrong.
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #8 New Orleans Pelicans
Season Series: Golden State 3-1
No offense to Oklahoma City, but I was rooting for the Pelicans to win on the final night of the regular season in order for them to secure a spot in the playoffs. The reason why is very simple: Anthony Davis. The 22-year-old Pelicans big man is the most exciting young player in the league. In another year, on a higher seeded team, he would be getting legitimate talk in the MVP race. The problem is, we won’t get to see him for very long because they’re playing the best team in the league (according to record). The Warriors ended the regular season at 67-15 and a ridiculous 39-2 on their home floor. Andrew Bogut will have his hands full with Davis down low, but Curry and Thompson along with Iguodala all have mismatches against the guys who will draw the defensive assignments (Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon). Maybe New Orleans steals a game in which Davis goes nuts, but it’s one and done this year for The Brow.
Prediction: Warriors in 5
#4 Portland Trailblazers vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies
Season Series: Memphis 4-0
These two teams limped into the post season. The Grizzlies had Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Marc Gasol all miss time down the stretch. The Blazers have Chris Kaman, Nic Batum, CJ McCollum, Dorrell Wright, Arron Afflalo, and Wes Matthews all miss games in the last two weeks. Matthews of course is out for the year after blowing out his Achilles. Who gets healthiest first will be key, but this match-up was worst case scenario for the Trailblazers, in my opinion. Portland has plenty of ability offensively, and they would have been able to win a series against the Clippers or the Rockets. The Grizzlies, though, present a different challenge because of how good they are defensively. Memphis dominated the season series by sweeping all four games. On top of that, because of the weird NBA rules counting winning your division, Portland is the four seed but will be on the road for this series in the FedEx Forum. But in the end, I think Memphis is able to lock down on Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs
Season Series: Tied 2-2
Remember when I said the Grizzlies were the worst case scenario match-up for the Blazers? Same goes here for the Clippers drawing the defending champion Spurs. Both teams come in red hot after winning 9 of their final 10 games to end the regular season. It’s been the same old song and dance for San Antonio as around early March people started counting them out saying they were no longer a threat and couldn’t put together another run. They then proceeded to win 22 of their final 26 games including 11 in a row at one point. The traditional passing of the torch continues in San Antonio as it’s gone from Robinson to Duncan to Ginobili to Parker and now to Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich and crew just keep humming along. The Clippers won 55 games once again, but the problem I always have with the Clips is their depth. Outside of the starting five this team is pretty weak. I’m still waiting for the year when they put it all together. I don’t think it’s this year as they bow out again in the first round. If you want to count out the Spurs go ahead. I’ve learned my lesson.
Prediction: Spurs in 6
#2 Houston Rockets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
Season Series: Tied 2-2
This series is seriously intriguing to me. There was the bad blood after the Chandler Parsons contract situation in the offseason. The scrappy, physical regular season games. Then the Mavericks seemed to have a ton of chemistry issues after first bringing in the mercurial Rajon Rondo. The point guard and head coach Rick Carlisle were butting heads. Now, they’ve won four of their final five games heading into the postseason. Meanwhile, the Rockets have gotten an MVP caliber season from James Harden (not my choice but can’t deny his stats) and solid contributions from a developing Terrence Jones, three and D wing Trevor Ariza, and a revived Josh Smith. A big key in this series for me is the health of Dwight Howard. Harden has carried this team and can do so again in this series, but a 70-90% Howard would be a huge boost obviously down low and would make it a shorter series in my mind. As is, like most series here in the West, I think it goes longer.
Prediction: Rockets in 6