If you judge by what we have seen in the regular season, you would think that Golden State is the favourite to win it all in back-to-back seasons. Do not rule out San Antonio and Oklahoma City as both teams have something to prove.
Here are the previews for the west
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets
We know about Golden State’s wins record this season, we know that Curry can hit shots from the parking lot and we know that they have the deepest team in the league. The Warriors did their best to rest Iguodala this season, which should mean that he will be able to play his regular minutes in the playoffs. Bogut and Ezeli will need to focus in on slowing down Howard in the post and if that is all they do in this series, I think Kerr will be more than happy with the two big men. Livingston is another key focal point off the bench for Golden State. His lankiness allows him to guard multiple positions, so do not be surprised if you see him matching up against Harden at various stages in the series. The key for Houston will be to stop the Splash Brothers, or more notably Curry. Beverley is an excellent defensive player, who can get under a players skin, so do not be astonished if you see some chippiness in this series. Harden is the main threat for Houston offensively, so look for the Warriors to throw guys like: Iguodala, Livingston and Thompson at the bearded one. Ariza may not get many open shots in this series, but if he does, Houston better hope that he can make them count; otherwise it could be a long series for the men in red.
Houston needed a lot of results to go their way in the final three or four games of the season and that is exactly what they got. However, I do not think that the Rockets can keep up with this high octane Warriors offense; they have just way too many weapons.
Prediction: Golden State Warriors in four
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers
With Griffin back from injury, Clippers are finally back at full strength and the Trail Blazers could be the first team to feel their wrath in the playoffs. Paul is still one of the best point guards in the league and when you add Redick and Crawford, two guards who can straight up shoot, you have the recipe for success. I presume that Jordan and Griffin will both have a huge series, seeing as Portland is short on big men with the injury that Leonard suffered earlier in the season. Paul Pierce has been very quiet all season long, but now it matters the most, so do not be surprised if he puts in a couple good games for the Clips. The Trail Blazers depend on two men-Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Both players can straight up shoot the ball and if they have one of those nights where they cannot seem to miss then the Clippers could find themselves in some serious trouble. Allen Crabbe is a great weapon off the bench, so is Ed Davis who has put together a good season. I expect Portland to be a jump shooting team this series because there are not many options in the post for Portland, apart from perhaps Ed Davis. There is a ton of pressure on both Lillard and McCollum, let’s see how they do.
As I mentioned before, if McCollum and Lillard have an awful series, there is no way Portland can advance. Even if the two aforementioned players light it up, it could still mean that Portland does not win because of the depth and experience that this LA team possesses
Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers in five
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder come in as one of the favourites to win the west, especially if Warriors falter as some point and get eliminated. Westbrook has had a spectacular season and I imagine he will continue to play at a high level in this series. Durant, like Westbrook, has been remarkable. If these two click like we know they can, there is no way Dallas can advance. Kanter has had his best season, too, averaging 13 and eight off the bench for the Thunder; however, he is not known for his defence, which the Mavs should try to exploit at every opportunity. Dallas’ sheriff Nowitzki is still putting up tremendous numbers and he will no doubt be the focal point of the Dallas offense. Williams has also come in this season and shown that he can still be a very good point guard, when in the right situation. After those two, it gets a bit foggy for Dallas. Parsons has missed a majority of the season, while Matthews has not exactly been the player they were hoping for.
With the 1-2 punch of Durant and Westbrook, I do not think that Dallas stands a chance in progressing to the next round.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder in five
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs once again are a serious threat in the west and even though we have had a changing of the guards so to say with Leonard and Aldridge becoming the offensive threats on this team, we cannot sleep on Duncan, Ginobili and Parker even though their best years are behind them. Green is still one of the better defenders in the league and add that to Leonard and the Spurs can stop almost anyone on any given night. Simmons and Anderson, two of the younger players on the team, have also done a great job this season showing Pop that they deserve minutes and for the most part they have produced. Aldridge should have a big series, when you consider that Gasol is out for the Grizzlies and that Randolph is getting older and add to that injuries have slowed him down this season. I am not sure how Memphis even made it to the playoffs with all the injuries that they have suffered, but nonetheless, they are here. Offensively, it is very tough to say where the Grizzlies will get their scoring from and even tougher when you consider that the Spurs are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Stephenson has found life again since joining the Grizzlies and he has shown that not only can he score but that he can get teammates involved as well. Randolph needs to be the Zach of old, while Conley will need to keep the turnovers down, distribute the ball and make shots when asked upon.
I do not think that the shorthanded Grizzlies stand a chance in this series.
Prediction: San Antonio Spurs in four
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.