Western Conference Playoff Preview

Western Conference Playoff Preview

The second season is finally upon us. It is the time of year that all NBA fans have been salivating for all season.

Can anybody upset the Warriors, or will they cruise to another finals appearance? Who will win the duel between Brodie and the Beard? Buckle up for a fun battle out west. Here is the Western Conference Playoff preview.

1 Golden State Warriors vs. 8 Portland Trailblazers

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: http://theargonautnews.com

The Warriors have been slowly waiting for the playoffs all season. Golden State finished with the best record in the NBA and will be trying to make their third consecutive finals appearance. Kevin Durant is back from his injury just around the same time Steph Curry has found his groove.

Portland has gone an impressive 11-4 over their last 15 games to push themselves into the playoffs as the eighth seed. The Trailblazers have a great backcourt, but the Warriors are just too loaded. There isn’t much Portland will be able to do to stop the Warriors’ high powered offense.

This will be a short series, and Golden State will be on to bigger and better things.

Prediction: Warriors in 4

2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: http://theargonautnews.com)

It is hard to imagine a Spurs versus Grizzlies playoff series without Tim Duncan. These two franchises have gone at it many times in the past playoffs to provide some thrilling action for the fans.

This series is likely to play out similarly to their two previous postseason meetings in which the Spurs have swept the Grizzlies. Memphis has the same core that hasn’t gotten over the hump and this year they are barely above .500.

San Antonio is still a well-oiled machine led by the best two-way player in the league, Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich will have his team ready, and the Spurs will find themselves in the Western Conference Semi-Finals rather quickly.

Prediction: Spurs in 5 

3 Houston Rockets vs. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/nba

This is easily the most exciting matchup of the first round in the Western Conference.

The storylines are never ending in this series. Russell Westbrook versus James Harden. The two players going head to head for the MVP go head to head in the playoffs. Westbrook is trying to lead his team against all odds. Harden will be trying to eliminate his former team. The hype is real for this one.

The Rockers went 3-1 against the Thunder, but three of the four games were decided by three points or less. Houston has the deeper team, but Oklahoma City has the advantage inside. Basketball slows down in the playoffs, giving the Thunder an advantage.

This will be a long and entertaining series. Westbrook is going to be gunning for heads in this year’s playoffs. His remarkable season will continue into the second round.

Prediction: Thunder in 7

4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5 Utah Jazz

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Clippers are under more pressure than any team in the first round of the playoffs. They have not lived up to the hype in recent years and health has been one of the biggest excuses.

This is no excuse this year. The Clippers are healthy and experienced while the Jazz are inexperienced. Los Angeles also has the home-court advantage in this series.

The Clippers dominated the Jazz in the regular season, winning three out of the four matchups by a combined 42 points. Utah doesn’t have the firepower to win this series on paper, but Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward could play well enough to upset the Clippers. Chris Paul, Black Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will not last long in L.A. if they lose this series.

The experience will be the difference in this one, and the Clippers will avoid being bounced in the first round, but just barely.

Prediction: Clippers in 7

You can check out the Eastern Conference Playoff Preview here.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

Who Can Knock Off Golden State?

There seems to be a consensus that the Warriors and Cavaliers will be meeting in the NBA Finals. Whether it is actual analysis or just what people want to see, it is hard to find fans who believe it will be anyone else. Why would it be anybody other than those two teams? They have played against one another in back to back finals. Both teams have gotten even better this season. Most fans also want to see the grudge match considering both teams have beaten the other once. On paper, everything looks nice but basketball isn’t played on paper and there are teams who can upset the world and make it to the finals. This first edition will look at who in the west can upset the Warriors in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

(Photo Credit: http://jordansdaily.com)

This isn’t really going out on a limb. The Spurs are the most obvious answer to who can beat the Warriors in the playoffs although they seem to be forgotten when it comes to finals talk. The Spurs are an amazing 45-13 and only four and a half games back of the Warriors. Mathematically they could even get the number one seed still. San Antonio also leads the season series 1-0 and there are still two more games to play against the Warriors.

Gregg Popovich will have this team ready come playoff time, and everyone in that locker room believes they can win the title. The Spurs have the second-best defense in the NBA holding teams to just 98.3 points per game. They also hold opponents to 44 percent shooting. It is going to take a good defensive team to beat the Warriors. What the Spurs do defending the three-point line is what gives them the best opportunity to win. San Antonio holds opponents to 34 percent shooting behind the arc. Keeping Klay Thompson and Steph Curry off the arc is the key to beating the Warriors.

The Spurs are extremely experienced in the playoffs. Their players know what it takes to win and have the mentality that they are overlooked and underappreciated. Kawhi Leonard may need to be legendary during their playoff run but they are one of the teams that can upset Golden State.

Houston Rockets

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

(Photo Credit: http://topbet.eu)

The Rockets are an interesting team. They played the Warriors in the playoffs last year as an eighth seed but only won one game in the series. As crazy as this sounds, the formula the Rockets have for beating the Warriors is trying to outscore them. They are probably the only team in the league who is comfortable playing the Warriors shot for shot. They have also split the season series each beating the other once with the Rockets winning the most recent contest.

Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy has been tremendous for Harden and the Rockets, as they are averaging 115.2 points per game this season. James Harden will need to play out of his mind for the Rockets to do pull off the upset, but he is capable of doing so. If the Warriors go cold Houston can shoot them out of the gym. It will take a group effort to beat Golden State but Houston has a team capable, even if it isn’t likely.

Utah Jazz

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

(Photo Credit: http://www.sltrib.com)

The Jazz are one team nobody really talks about. Most talk about the West involves the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Clippers. Interesting enough the Jazz sit at fourth in the Western Conference. Utah isn’t a high scoring team, they average about 100 points per game, but they shoot a high percentage. The Jazz rank 10th in field goal percentage shooting 46.4 percent per game.

What makes the Jazz good is that they are the best defensive team in the NBA. They hold teams to an average of 95.6 points per game. They are third best in defensive field goal percentage (43.8 percent) and 13th in defensive three-point percentage (35.7 percent). The Jazz play great defense and can slow the game down. In a series against the Warriors, they would need to play their best defense of the year and hope the Warriors go cold for one or two games. If they do that the Jazz could find themselves upsetting Golden State in a seven game series.

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Top 5 Upcoming NBA Games (Week of 3/21-3/27)

Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

There are three and half weeks remaining in the NBA season and playoff races continue to heat up. Here are the top five games of the upcoming week involving teams in the playoff hunt.

#5- Miami Heat @ San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday, March 23):  The Heat have been quiet contenders all year and they sit as the fourth seed currently in the east. With just 13 games remaining it is unlikely they get anything higher than the three seed, which would be a great accomplishment. Dwayne Wade will have random nights where he displays his greatness, but due to injuries and aging he lacks doing it consistently. This team doesn’t do anything that stands out but they play as a team and its working for them.

We all know how good the Spurs are as they displayed it yet again Saturday night with the best defensive performance on the Warriors so far this season. This will be a fun out of conference match-up, but is really a measuring stick for the Heat. If they can win, which will be unlikely with the Spurs home win streak, it would give the Heat a lot of confidence in their ability to knock of the Cavaliers in the East. The Spurs are just too good and won’t fall to the Heat in this game.

Prediction: Spurs 102-94

#4- Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Tuesday, March 22): The Rockets have to play well in the final stretch of the season or they may miss the playoffs. With only 12 games remaining they are sitting at .500 and tied for seventh in the west with the Mavericks. The Rockets versus Thunder games are always exciting because James Harden gets to play against his former team and close teammates. He loves to prove that they should have never traded them.

The Thunder are slowly becoming an after thought in the West because it’s a two horse race. No team in the West will beat the Spurs or Warriors to get to the Conference Finals. Many believed the Thunder could but they haven’t proven it so until the playoffs roll around they have to sit as the third best team in the West and hear about how its all Spurs and Warriors. With that said they are still a very good team and their struggles come in the fourth quarter. Because of those struggles I believe James Harden gets the best of his former team and wins a big game for the Rockets on the road.

Prediction: Rockets 109-107

#3- Toronto Raptors @ Boston Celtics (Wednesday, March 23):  The Raptors still at second in the East and look poised to hold down that spot. The Celtics have fallen a bit and are currently the fifth seed in the east but can still work their way up to the third seed. Boston is 0-3 against the Raptors this season and if they want to become a threat in the east they need to prove they can beat the top teams in the conference. This is their last chance at the Raptors in the regular season, and get to play at home as well. It is extremely hard to sweep a team unless the match-up is just that bad so I think the Celtics get a much needed win.

Prediction: Celtics 94-91

#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Saturday, March 26): This is the chance the Thunder are looking for to show they belong in the same class as the Spurs. They play them again in April but this is the last time they get the Spurs at home. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need to dominate this game and win it to prove they belong in the discussion when it comes to teams coming out of the western conference.

The Spurs are more vulnerable on the road and it is hard to envision when Popavich might rest his starters but they can still get the first seed so there is a chance Popavich doesn’t. I think the Thunder are going to need this game more and because of that they will get a much needed upset win.

Prediction: Thunder 103-100

#1- Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors ( Wednesday, March 23): These two teams hate each other. It may stem from jealousy on the part of the Clippers but these games tend to get much more physical than most. The Clippers have not beaten the Warriors this season. The Clippers are much like the Thunder, in the fact they are really good but when it comes to competing for a title they are an after thought, thanks to the Spurs and Warriors.

The Warriors are chasing history and the greatness of Curry can be forever cemented if they break the Bulls record for wins in a season. They won’t lose to the Clippers at home.

Prediction: Warriors 120-107

3 Biggest Threats to the Warriors

 

January 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors are the heavy favorites to win the NBA championship. They are the class of the NBA and are poised to win another NBA Finals. They are even on track to beat the Bulls record of 72 wins in a season. Most people think the only team that can really stop the Warriors are themselves but here are the three teams with the best chance to dethrone the champs.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers- The Cavs are the favorite in the east mostly because LeBron has been to five straight finals. Last year’s NBA Finals were missing Kevin Love and then they lost Kyrie Irving after game one so we don’t know how that might have gone with a healthy Cleveland team. If they get to the Finals they have a shot to knock off the Warriors. It would be highly unlikely but having three players who have been all stars should allow them to compete in a long series with the Warriors. The Warriors have few threats but Cleveland is one of them as long as LeBron is there.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder- The games the Thunder and Warriors have had against each other this season have been edge of the seat exciting. The Thunder have two of the top 10 players in the NBA and some depth that could help them in a seven game series against the Warriors. This is a playoff series anyone would want to see because of how fun it is to watch these teams go to battle. Durant has been vocal lately and he really wants to win a championship. It would take a legendary series performance from Durant but he is surely capable. If he really wants to get that elusive championship he is going to have to take his game to a new level and go through the Warriors.

1.San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs are the obvious choice of the team with the best chance to dethrone the defending champions. Gregg Popovich is one of the top three coaches of all time and is great at preparing his team for the NBA’s second season. He is willing to sit anyone to make sure his team is healthy and ready. It is crazy that a team can be 53-9 on the year and receive absolutely no publicity. They can still earn the number one seed over the Warriors. They are also on an eight game win streak and have not shown any signs of slowing down. If the Spurs and Warriors could play for the championship the world would rejoice, but maybe we will have to settle seeing them play in the Western Conference Finals.

The Spurs are the biggest threat for a variety of reasons. For one they are just as good as shown by their record and it takes a Herculean effort to beat them. Secondly, they have more experience in the playoffs than any other team in the NBA and experience is just as valuable, if not more, than talent. Lastly, with that experience, they have chemistry that other teams simply don’t have. The core of the Spurs (Duncan, Ginobili and Parker) have five championships and with Kawhi Leonard continuously growing and expanding his game, along with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge, I don’t see how they can lose a seven game series. This team is just as dangerous as Golden State and I hope they meet in the Western Conference Finals. Epic wouldn’t be enough to describe that matchup. Hopefully the Basketball Gods bless us with this dream series.