The Eastern Conference will come down to the last game of the season before it is all set in stone, but right now the playoff picture in the Western Conference is all locked up except for who finishes four/five. Let’s take a quick look at what we’ll be seeing in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trailblazers
This won’t be like last season’s second round match-up, that’s for sure. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson should all be healthy going into this one and this could be a first round sweep.
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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
Death. Taxes. Spurs and Grizzlies in the playoffs.
This should stylistically be the complete opposite of Warriors vs. Blazers. There will be grit and animosity throughout this series. This series is a weird one because the Spurs are clearly the better team, but the Grizzlies have probably the second and third best players in the series. Kawhi Leonard is the best, but after him I would take Marc Gasol and Mike Conley over any other player on San Antonio. Which reminds me, how awesome will be it be Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol face off? That should be great.
That said, the Spurs are the Spurs for a reason. They get the most out of everybody and are well coached. I could see Memphis maybe stealing a game or two, but this should be a roll for the Spurs. The old guys Tony Parker, Gasol and Manu Ginobili shouldn’t look that old with the pace being slower and that benefits San Antonio in a major way.
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
This one is going to be fun with each game on national television. Russell Westbrook has been the star of the 2017 season and he’ll need to unleash all of his powers for his team to possibly have a chance in this series. It would be nice if we got a Steven Adams that resembled the guy we saw in last year’s playoffs. That could really make this interesting, but it seems more likely that he, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter will take a supporting role. This series will be all about Westrbook….
And James Harden. The difference in this series should be Harden’s willingness to share the ball and his trust in his teammates. That’s something that Westrbook doesn’t always have (for good and bad), but Harden has shown the ability to feed Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson for open threes all season and hopefully that continues in the playoffs. This could be a big series for Clint Capela as he’ll have his hands full down low. I see this series going five or six games, but the Rockets should move on.
(4/5) Utah Jazz vs. (4/5) Los Angeles Clippers
This could be the best series in the West. These two teams have the exact same record at the moment with the Clippers holding the tiebreaker. Their last game of the season is against the Sacramento Kings so it feels like they’ll get the four seed.
This should be a great series as it is two teams on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. This could be the last ride of the DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, JJ Reddick and Blake Griffin led Clippers team while this is the first of hopefully many Utah Jazz playoff runs led by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. (Of course, free agency may have something to say about that.)
Home court make a big difference in this one as I can easily see this series going seven games. The Gobert-Jordan match-up should be great as both will need to be block machines for their teams. I wouldn’t underrate the George Hill on Paul match-up either. Hill may be one of the most underrated point guards out there and he’ll be key to this series.
To me, this series comes down to Gordon Hayward versus Blake Griffin. This will be the first playoff appearance for Hayward and he’ll need to up his game for the Jazz to have a chance. Blake Griffin, of course, could take over this series but he hasn’t looked like himself for much of the season. If he gets his game back, I like the Clippers. Either way, this should be a close one.
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