NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview

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It’s been wild out in the West but the playoffs are finally set and there are several great matchups. Much like the East, the first round could be very unpredictable and the best teams may not be in the Finals. The fifth seeded Denver Nuggets have looked outstanding since the Carmelo trade, yet they must play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.

The Thunder are the young, exciting team that most people think are ready for a breakout year after taking the Lakers six games last year in the first round. Los Angeles is the second seed and is hoping for another three-peat, but they are limping into the playoffs, losing five of their last seven. Dallas has never fared well in the postseason and nobody is giving them much of a shot and then there are the San Antonio Spurs, sitting atop the bracket with the number one seed.

Like always, it seems the Spurs are the forgotten team for some reason despite posting the best record in the West.

Their age may be a factor, as could Manu Ginobli’s elbow injury, but Greg Popovich has won four titles and don’t count San Antonio out just yet. Other young teams like the Blazers and Grizzlies will try to pull off upsets in the first round and leave their mark on the 2011 postseason. Now, let’s get to the picks.

1. San Antonio Spurs vs. 8. Memphis Grizzlies

If Rudy Gay had not suffered a season ending shoulder injury then the Griz could have a realistic chance in this series. Without him they can’t win four games against the Spurs but they should be able to take one or two. Memphis has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, a double-double machine, and their post presence will be very valuable against the Spurs inside duo of Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair. When it comes to post play it is about even, however, if Ginobli is able to play then the Spurs can dominate the perimeter. Everybody knows what they are going to get from Ginobli and Tony Parker, but the key perimeter players for the Spurs are the young guys, George Hill and Gary Neal. Both are deep ball threats and run the new, fast-paced Spurs offensive attack well. In a rough playoff series, they will be counted on a little bit more to give Parker and Ginobli some rest time. If the Grizzlies are to win then they need everybody to be clicking on all cylinders every game and hopefully steal one the road. They may win a game or two at home but this upset would be more surprising than the Warriors beating the Mavericks a few years back. Prediction: Spurs in 5

 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5. Denver Nuggets

Make sure to tune in to every single game of this series because it is the best first round matchup the playoffs have to offer. The Thunder are a team that has constantly been on the rise since drafting Kevin Durant and the Nuggets are a team many thought were left for dead when they traded away but Carmelo, but instead they played phenomenal, reaching the 50 win mark. Give a shoutout to George Karl that coaching masterpiece. He can also thank his backcourt of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, both former Tar Heels. Together they average 27 points and 13 assists for a team without a superstar. No matter though, they have more than enough firepower to defeat the favored Thunder. Give some love to Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook, a man who has been overshadowed at his position by Derrick Rose and even on his own team by Kevin Durant. Durant and Westbrook are the best duo in the NBA. Now they have Kendrick Perkins in the middle and that has made them a true championship contender. Perkins knows how to win and he is the bully the sometimes soft Thunder needed. This series will be the best and should go the full seven. Prediction: Thunder in 7

3. Dallas Mavericks vs. 6. Portland Trail Blazers

It’s always hard to pick the Mavs to win a playoff series because they have such a terrible reputation in the postseason. Sure, they have one of the best players in the game with Dirk Nowitzki but he is a one-man show and that doesn’t work in the playoffs. The Blazers, on the other hand, are an intriguing young squad that has seems to always be plagued by injuries but with a healthy lineup they have the potential to win this series. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are a poor man’s Durant and Westbrook, but they are two players to keep an eye on in the postseason.

Aldridge has had a career year, averaging 21 points and nearly 9 boards and many think he was the biggest all-star snub. Throw in Gerald Wallace and the Blazers have a solid core of players. The Mavs have had a great year but that’s the norm for them. It’s also the norm to then choke in the playoffs; call them the Kansas Jayhawks of the NBA. Here’s their chance to change that image. Prediction: Trail Blazers in 6

 

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 7. New Orleans Hornets

Much like the Grizzlies, if the Hornets had David West then they could make some noise but that’s not going to happen against the defending champs. There’s only one name people need to know right here: Kobe Bryant. Kobe is on a mission to get that sixth ring and it will be hard to stop him. The Lakers dynasty could be coming to an end with Phil Jackson mulling retirement and the core group of players getting older, but they have enough in the tank to parade the streets of LA one more time. If Andrew Bynum is healthy then there is no stopping the Lakers in the West. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Kobe and Bynum is just too much for Chris Paul and his band of Hornets. Expect a sweep in this series. Prediction: Lakers in 4

If the predictions hold true then I would go with the Thunder of the Spurs and the Lakers over the Blazers. LA would then advance to the Finals where they would defeat the Bulls for their second three-peat since the millenium hit. The West is typically the stronger conference but there seems to have been a power shift to the East.

Despite that, expect the West to pull off one more championship before the East wins the next few. The Lakers are too determined and too experienced for the Thunder to beat them just yet but Oklahoma City’s time is near.

Playoff action starts Saturday at 1 p.m. ET with the Chicago Bulls facing the Indiana Pacers.

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  1. This reminds me of the other info I was seeing

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