NBA Playoffs Preview (Western Conference)
April showers bring May flowers. More like April basketball bring me a championship! Yes, it's that time of year again where 16 cities get to have the rowdiest party of their lives in which their team has a chance to be enlisted into NBA championship glory. The past 82 games have been the most enjoyable games where every one of them felt like there was at least one edge of your seat moment.
As for the teams competing in this year's NBA Playoffs, in terms of the Eastern Conference, three of the eight teams come from the Atlantic division (Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia), three from the Central (Cleveland, Indiana, and Milwaukee), and let's not forget the lackluster Southeast division, where this year's division crown was given to the freaking Heat at the 6 seed, as well as the Wizards sneaking in at the 8 seed. But then we enter this wild Western Conference, where the 3 seed (Blazers) have just a 49-33 record after lagging on to a 4 game losing streak, but then they bounce back by winning the Northwest division at home against Utah as they clinched the third seed with the all important home court advantage in the first round. And then there's the final game for the final playoff spot between the Nuggets and the Timberwolves. I'll be bluntly honest and summarize this game in one word. (Eating, still eating, food caught in the esophagus, emergency CPR, Death). See what I did there. Timberwolves would win in OT 112-106.
So now you may be wondering, great but who are these teams playing in the Playoffs? Great question everyone! There may be some upsets I might call, but don't be mad if the upset is not on Lebron and the Cavs. Because let's be real, he always wins the first round with a 12-0 record. Predictions, predictions, predictions! Who am I picking to move on to the second round? Let's find out!
(8) Timberwolves Vs. (1) Rockets:
(Laughing, laughing harder, laughing intensifies). You know what I said about the Timberwolves just sneaking in the Playoffs with a win against the Nuggets? Well I think I have the same thoughts as every NBA analyst is thinking about this series. T-Wolves fans, cover your ears.
Let's see, Chris Paul and James Harden in the backcourt with Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela on the defensive end and the Timberwolves have a lack of Playoff experience in the KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns), Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Andrew Wiggins. I'll summarize it like this. No one can stop an MVP candidate in Jams Harden, especially when he has a supporting cast that flow well together on the court and know what they're actually doing. Now some might say that this series will come down to the defensive end in Taj Gibson for the Wolves, and Ariza and Capela for Houston. But what this series will come down to is who plays better downtown. And since Jimmy Butler is more of a drive-to-the rim type of player, the only real three point shooter Minnesota has is Karl-Anthony Towns. And he will really have to step up against the dynamic dup in CP3 and The Beard.
Prediction time. Even with talent on the floor, there is still a lack of playoff experience not just individually, but for the Timberwolves as an organization as this is their first playoff trip since 2004. These games will be close, but I will be generous and give the underdog a home win. Just keep in mind that they will get murdered.
Rockets in 5
(7) Spurs Vs. (2) Warriors:
Ah, yes. A rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals but a little earlier than normal as the winner of this series will take on a team with their leader as an MVP candidate in the second round. Since the Warriors have lost six of their last 10, this series may come down to seven games. And let's just say that if Golden State does lose this series, it better not be because Kevin Durant was a whiny little bitch. As for the matchup, you have two Western Conference "powerhouses" that normally have the Conference Finals or Finals added to their name, but as for this year both teams have been on a downslide with the Spurs having their first losing road record since forever, and the Warriors with the loss of Steph Curry's presence on and off the court. The key aspect that will win the series for either team is winning the battle inside the paint as well as second chance points. The matchup that will impact this battle in the series is LaMarcus Aldridge and JaVale McGee. You heard it first, the team with more rebounds and second chance points will win this series. Now as for the three point shooting, advantage goes to the Warriors with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson compensating for Steph's numbers. The only downtown guy that San Antonio has is Patty Mills. Now I know that some analysts might be saying right now it will be either Warriors in a sweep, or Warriors in 5, but through all of the adversity this team has gone through to the point where they weren't making the Playoffs, I think this deserves to go to a seven game series. Close, but no cigar.
Warriors in 7
(6) Pelicans Vs. (3) Blazers
Well what can I say about this series. Two MVP candidates who perform at an exceptionally high level as they're alongside supporting casts who step up when their teams need it most. And in today's lesson children, we will be defining the word clutch. Clutch in sports anyway means a manner where the guy with the ball at the last second takes the game winning shot. This basically describes who Damian Lillard is as a player. There is no other player that can do what he does in the final seconds when the Blazers need a basket late.
Now as for the head-to-head matchup, both teams are tied at two games a piece but the three point shooting advantage goes to New Orleans. Why? Well, that was before the injury to Demarcus Cousins so let's just say that The Brow will have a long series with his squad, especially with Portland's home court advantage. Plus with a supporting cast in C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Ed Davis, it's going to take more than a one man show to win this series. This series come close, but my prediction is that Damian Lillard will end the series like he did 4 years ago, but this time, he'll do it in New Orleans! MVP candidate versus MVP candidate, my kind of series.
Blazers in 6
(5) Jazz Vs. (4) Thunder
Lose your last game and you're forced to travel for Game 1. Summary of the Utah Jazz for the past three days. As for Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City thunder, they are the one's who have home court advantage in this series. As for the matchup you've got Rudy Gobert and Mr. Rookie himself Donovan Mitchell versus the Thunder's big three in Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Mr. triple double himself, Russell Westbrook. Just hearing Russell Westbrook and triple double in the same sentence might give the Jazz the willies.
Despite Carmelo Anthony having off performances as of late, he along with his two other counterparts make the difference and have the advantage over Donovan Mitchell. For the defensive end, you've got Steven Adams who has the advantage in rebounds compared to Rudy Gobert who has his wheelhouse in second chance points. This will probably be the most intriguing matchup within the Western Conference Playoffs where all games will be close. And by close I mean within 10 points or less. However, this series will go down in 7 games. Mitchell and Gobert will not be enough for the Jazz to win this series, but I imagine Game 7 going down to the wire.
Thunder in 7
As for a Western Conference Finals prediction, I am going to say Blazers and Rockets with the Blazers winning in seven games. After losing their last two against Houston, Portland needs a redemption in the form of a possible trip to the NBA Finals.
Stay tuned for Eastern Conference First Round Playoff prdictions.