March 11, 2020:
The NBA suspended the season when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Corona Virus. We don’t know when or if the NBA will return. I have taken the liberty to write a preview and prediction of the Western Conference first round playoffs.
#1 Lakers (49-14) vs #8 Memphis Grizzlies (32-33):
The Lakers have been the most consistent team in the Western Conference, all season long. They were, 23-8 at home and 26-6 on the road. LeBron James could win the MVP award. He averaged 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game. Anthony Davis led the team in scoring, averaging 26.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. They Lakers 3rd option is Kyle Kuzma. He scored 12.5 points per game and averaged 24 minutes per contest. This team has several veterans who won playoff games. Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, Danny Green and Rajon Rondo have all given quality minutes off the bench. The wild card for the Lakers will be Alex Caruso. He can shoot the three-point shot and get to the rim.
The Grizzlies were the feel-good story of the 2019-20 season. No one expected them to be competitive or make the playoffs. Ja Morant will win rookie of the year and he led Memphis scoring 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. Jaren Jackson and Dillon Brooks combined for 32 points per game. Jonas Valanciunas has been a double/double machine and has provided tremendous veteran leadership for this young group.
The Lakers are built for the post-season where Memphis is just happy to be here. LA dominates this series
Lakers sweep, 4-0.
#2 LA Clippers (44-20) vs #7 Dallas Mavericks (40-27):
The Clippers have the deepest, most talented roster in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell average 85.2 points per game. Reggie Jackson’s provides scoring from the point guard position and Patrick Beverly can be a lockdown defender. Ivica Zubac can provide low-post scoring and rebounding.
The Mavericks are built for the future, but don’t tell their young players that. Luca Doncic averaged 28 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. Kristaps Porzingis has been solid coming off his injury. He averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
The key to this series will be how will Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry play. Dallas gets a game at home but lose this series.
Clippers win, 4-1.
#3 Denver Nuggets (43-22) vs #6 Houston Rockets (40-24):
The Nuggets are led by their all-star, Nikola Jokic. The 25-year-old center led the Nuggets in points, rebounds and assists. Jamal Murray averaged 18 points per game and Will Barton scored 15 per contest. The Nuggets have a lot of role players who contribute every night.
Before the season was suspended the Rockets lost to the Knicks, Clippers, Hornets and Magic. They appear to be tuning out their head coach, Mike D’Antoni. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are averaging 61 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists per game. When Eric Gordon “gets hot” he can score 20 points per game.
On paper, the Rockets should win this series. They won’t. Mike Malone is a much better coach than D’Antoni. The Nuggets won’t panic in crunch time and they will exploit one of the worst defenses in the NBA.
Denver win in 7 games.
#4 Utah Jazz (41-23) vs #5 OKC Thunder (40-24):
Billy Donovan should win coach of the year. No one expected the Thunder to be a playoff-team. Chris Paul was on the “back-9” of his career but has been revitalized in Oklahoma. Paul is averaging 17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. The Thunder have 4 players who average more than 19 points per contest and Steven Adams is scoring 10 points and 9.4 rebounds every night.
The Jazz are led by Donovan Mitchell. He is averaging 24 points per game and Bojan Bogdanovic has been a great addition this off-season. Rudy Gobert is getting 13 rebounds per game and 2 block shots. Jordan Clarkson provides instant offense off the bench.
The Thunder are playing with “house money” They have nothing to lose. They will be a tough out in the playoffs.
The Jazz win in 6 tough games.
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