NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Preview
By Guest Blogger Tyler Daly:
#1- San Antonio Spurs vs. #8- Memphis Grizzlies:
Season Series: Tied 2-2
The San Antonio Spurs immediately eliminated any doubts of how their aging roster would perform this season, exploding out of the gates and staying strong en route to the league’s best record. Recent injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli have some concerned the miles on this team might be catching up to them, but experience has proven valuable in recent postseasons. The Grizzlies surprised many in the second half of the season, winning tough games against the Lakers, Spurs, and Mavericks. But the loss of Rudy Gay will be too much for this young team to overcome in the long run, as they now lack a necessary go-to scorer. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will have a tough time guarding Duncan, and the Spurs will coast.
Series: Spurs in 5
#2- Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7- New Orleans Hornets:
Season Series: LA leads 4-0
The Lakers secured the two spot with a tough overtime road win, which proved to be an important victory. Rather than playing the energetic Trail Blazers, the Lakers now face a team who was not only unable to beat them once in the regular season, but just recently lost its leading scorer for the season. Without David West, the Hornets now lack depth inside as well. This does not bode well matching up with LA, who basically starts two centers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (once he returns from injury). Chris Paul will be able to do some major damage against the weaker LA point guards, but the Lakers overall depth and ability to score from anywhere on the court will prove too much for the Hornets to handle.
Series: Lakers in 4
#3- Dallas Mavericks vs. #6- Portland Trail Blazers:
Season Series: Tied 2-2
Unable to secure the second seed, the Mavericks now face a grizzly challenge in the first round. Along with the pressure of losing in the first round each of the last two seasons, Dallas now must beat an energetic and youthful squad that emulates the situation they found themselves in against the Golden State Warriors a few seasons ago. Dallas has great size on the inside with Chandler and Nowitzki, who will both have to come up huge on the defensive end in containing Lamarcus Aldridge. The key in this matchup will be the play of the guards for Dallas. If Jason Kidd can distribute the ball well to the Mavericks’ perimeter shooters, combined with a great defensive effort on Brandon Roy, Dallas can find success. I think the frustration that has built up in Dallas will push Nowitzki to carry this team into the second round, but it won’t be easy.
Series: Dallas in 7
#4- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5- Denver Nuggets:
Season series: OKC leads 3-1
This matchup should be exciting from start to finish. Both of these teams play a high-tempo level of basketball, have great home court advantages, and have great coaching. Denver shares the ball extremely well and takes advantage of its great shooters from all over the floor. They also have great depth at the guard position, which will prove valuable in keeping fresh legs in to guard Russell Westbrook. The Nuggets will have to attempt to clamp down on Kevin Durant, but the NBA’s leading scorer usually finds a way to get it done. The X factor will be if Denver can contain Westbrook. I think Kendrick Perkins and Nene will both get theirs, so the key is shutting down Russell. If he is allowed to put up big numbers, then the Nuggets won’t be able to keep up on the scoreboard.
Series: OKC in 7