The NBA’s Western Conference has been the Wild, Wild, West this season. Out of no where came the Utah Jazz and The Rockets took over the #1 seed. The Spurs did not win 50 games this season, but they are making their 21st playoff appearance. Two All-Stars will be out of the 1st round, Stephen Curry and DeMarcus Cousins. Unfortunately for New Orleans, Cousins is out for the year.
Western Conference Preview and Prediction:
#1) Houston Rockets vs #8 Minnesota Timberwolves:
The Rockets have been on “cruise control” since about game 60 of the regular season. They earned the #1 seed by going 65-17. Minnesota needed the last game of the season to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot. Their reward… they play the best offensive team in the NBA. James Harden has been “all-world” for the Rockets. The man they call “the beard,” averaged 35 minutes per game, 30 points, 8.8 assist and 5.4 rebounds. Chris Paul, who now plays the 2 guard most of the time Harden is in the game, averaged 18 points and 7.9 assists per game. Clint Capela has really blossomed in the “pick and roll” offense. He averaged 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds.
The Timberwolves are a two-headed monster. Jimmy Butler led the team averaging 22 points per game and Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.
Most experts would say that this series is offense (Houston) vs. defense (Minnesota). But that is not the case at all. The Timberwolves have allowed 108.4 points per 100 possessions, 23rd in the league, they are not a good defensive team at all. I think Butler and Towns will dominate at times, but the Rockets have too much fire power.
Rockets win in 5 Games.
#2 Golden State Warriors vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs:
Both teams aren’t 100%. The Warriors will be without Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard continues to be sidelined with a quadricep injury.
This is a simple formula that just won’t add up for the Spurs. The Warriors have Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as their “Big 3”
The Spurs have LeMarus Aldridge. The former Portland Trail Blazer has had a tremendous season leading his team in scoring and rebounding.
If Leonard was in the San Antonio lineup I would have the Spurs winning this series in 6 games.
Without him… Golden State wins in 5 Games.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. #6 New Orleans Pelicans:
At the start of the season, most experts did not have Portland as a number 3 seed. They have done a tremendous job getting production from everyone on their roster. The Pelicans won 48 games despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a season ending injury. In 48 games, Cousins averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
Portland’s “Big 3” of Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkick and CJ McCollum average about 62 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists per game combined. Anthony Davis should average 30 plus and 15 rebounds per game in this series, but it just won’t be enough. The Trail Blazers will constantly double team him and throw new defenders at him from quarter to quarter. The big stat to watch for? Portland is 18-5 when they make 12 or more three point shots per game.
Take the Trail Blazers in 6 games.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Utah Jazz:
Utah coach, Quin Snyder, should win coach of the year and rookie Donovan Mitchell should get some Rookie of the Year votes. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
The Thunder underachieved somewhat during the regular season. They have three Hall of Famers in their starting lineup but never seemed to put together a month worth of great basketball Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double for the 2nd straight season and he has proven he can carry a team without Kevin Durant.
Other than Mitchell, where are the Jazz getting a legitimate 20 points per night performance? Rudy Gobert is a solid rebounder, shot blocker but lacks offensive firepower. On the season, Gobert is averaging 13.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. OKC’s “Big 4” of Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams combined for 76 points, 30 rebounds and 15 assists per game. This team gets almost no production from anyone else on their roster. There is just not enough shots to go around. Late season acquisition Corey Brewer is averaging 10.1 points per game. This team will only go as for as these 4 super stars take them. It will be enough to get passed the Jazz
OKC wins in 5 games.
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