Western Conference Playoffs First Round Preview
If you missed the Eastern Conference preview column be sure to check it out. The West will have excellent match-ups to watch for in round one. How easy will it be for Houston and Golden State? Can OKC turn on the jets? What will Portland do defending Anthony Davis? Join me in figuring out this tough conference with so much at stake for some franchises.
Houston Vs Minnesota- Somewhere Flip Saunders is smiling up above celebrating the first playoff appearance since 2004 for the franchise. Minnesota had to do it in a OT thriller vs Denver to get in and their reward is a waxing job by Houston. After the starting five this team won’t be able to sustain or increase a lead when both teams starters are resting. For Andrew Wiggins he won’t be trusted to be a dominate scorer to take the load off Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony-Towns who will be hounded all series by multiple defenders that Houston can throw at them.
Houston comes in with the best record in the league with a killer offense that is borderline unstoppable. The two-headed monster at guard in James Harden and Chris Paul is just too much to handle for a team who is terrible defensively. Driving the lane and finding the open man for three will be a theme in this series killing Minnesota, forcing them into submission. Butler is Minnesota’s best defender and it won’t be enough to stop this offense from clicking even if he is guarding Harden all series. Expect this to be a quick and painless series for Houston resulting in a sweep into the next round. Houston wins 4-0
Oklahoma City Vs Utah- Russell Westbrook leads a Thunder team that is built for the playoffs and poised for a date with Houston in round two. The key matchup in this series will be Steven Adams vs Rudy Gobert. This is pivotal for Adams not to get into foul trouble and forced to go with an option off the bench that won’t contest with Gobert. Watch for OKC to drive to the rim as much as possible to draw fouls on Gobert forcing him to the bench. This will be a grind it out series for both sides offensively, pay extra attention on who Paul George will be guarding to making sure he makes that play ineffective to who he is guarding.
Utah had a terrific season; Head Coach Quinn Snyder is a top five coach in the league and Donovan Mitchell is a terror that Westbrook will have to follow around all series. How Mitchell will battle dealing with Westbrook will be the most crucial factor for Utah to make this a seven games series. Expect Utah to win their respective games at home and forcing Westbrook to have a game where he will go 7/28 from the field. George and Westbrook will be too much, and Adams will have a good series causing the Thunder to prevail in a hard-fought series. Thunder wins 4-2
Portland Vs New Orleans - Without DeMarcus Cousins the Pelicans have maintained their respective record all thanks to Anthony Davis wreaking havoc around the league. Portland will throw the kitchen sink at him to try and stop him at all costs, little do they know Davis will still get his numbers and potentially take Jusuf Nurkic out of this series getting him in foul trouble. There will be moments that Rajon Rondo will turn back the clock and show up like his old self and make critical plays helping the Pelicans win two games in the series.
In a battle of back court duos Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum will have the advantage vs Jrue Holiday and Rondo. The key factor for Portland to make noise in this year’s playoffs is which Nurkic will we see? If we see the motivated, excellent footwork, good post moves and an above average rim protector. Then Portland will cruise through the series. If the lazy, frustrated, and non-passing Nurkic shows up then Portland will have a hard series. Portland will prevail, but they will need the good Nurkic to even get a game out of Golden State in round two. Portland wins 4-2
Golden State Vs San Antonio- The Spurs look like the team that was waxed in the Western Conference Finals last season after Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury. This time around a lot of mystery has surrounded Kawhi only playing nine games this season due to a lingering quad injury and a struggle between the team and Kawhi’s camp on what he wants after his contract is up after next season. This will result in the Spurs being swept and it won’t be close in this series. The only way this could be a series is if Kawhi somehow shows up WWE style and reign terror into the face of the Warriors.
The Warriors come into the postseason missing Steph Curry for the series and it won’t matter despite the Spurs being very well coached. Danny Green has a chance to give Klay Thompson fits on the perimeter and Kyle Anderson will have the impossible task Kevin Durant guarding all series. Durant will dominate; Draymond Green will do Draymond things and the Warriors will roll through this series and prepare for Portland in round two. Golden State wins 4-0