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Western Conference Playoff Matchup Preview

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets

Just like the East, the final West standings are giving us some pretty intriguing matchups in the first round. If you’re someone who is looking for upsets, in my opinion you’re more likely to find them on this side. With just 2 games separating the 8 seed from the 3 seed in this conference, things are going to be tight. Who will survive? Let’s have a look

(1) Houston Rockets vs (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Once again, congratulations on the Timberwolves for finally snapping their huge playoff drought. Your reward is you get to face a HOU team that not only has been then best team in the league all year, but also beat you every single time they played you during the regular season!

While on paper you may think to yourself that MIN has the talent to make this a series, unfortunately for them they couldn’t play a worse style for a team trying to knock off the Rockets. The Timberwolves are not a fast paced three point shooting team, they rank dead last in 3PM in the entire league and 22nd in pace. That’s not how they win. Their only hope is that Jimmy Butler can go to another level and contain Harden, and hope that guys like KAT don’t get completely shut down by Capela. If I were MIN I would just try and cut the Rockets to death because that’s something you actually can do at a high level, scoring 1.32 points per possession on cuts. That and handoffs. Run a bunch of handoffs but make sure to not forget about KAT. Him going supernova is going to be crucial if they want to advance.

Add in the fact that defensively the Timberwolves ranked 23 in Drtg this year, I just don’t see how they stop HOU enough to get it done.

My Pick: Rockets in 5

(2) Golden State Warriors vs (7) San Antonio Spurs

We all remember last year when the Spurs were destroying the Warriors so badly that they had to intentionally send out Zaza Pachulia to take out Kawhi. You think the Spurs have forgotton about that? Now that they get to face the Warriors without Curry, perhaps some revenge could be on the horizon. Also, would it shock anyone if Kawhi was suddenly cleared to play now that they’ve learned who their first round opponent is? Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that’s how the Kawhi saga went.

During the year, the Warriors won 3 out of the 4 meetings between these two teams, but once Curry went out they only beat them by 3, and then lost the finale when everyone was hurt. That’s why we can’t really just assume that GS is going to roll over SA because they certainly haven’t as currently constructed. Add in the bad blood from the year before, and this has the potential to be one of the best series in the entire playoffs. The Spurs had the 4th best defense all year, the Warriors the best offense rating. Something is going to have to give.

My Pick: Warriors in 6 (7 if Kawhi plays)

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs (6) New Orleans Pelicans

Now here is a matchup that I don’t think many expected at the start of the year. The backcourt battle in this series is going to be something to keep an eye on, especially because they are two different styles. With POR they have two guys in Dame/CJ that can take over a game by themselves. With NO, Jrue Holiday/Rondo are a little different. Jrue can score and Rondo can do everyone else. We all know what a beast playoff Rondo has been in his career (14/6/9) and defensively they are both going to make life hard for PORs guards.

During the year these two teams split their H2H matchups, and in looking at their rosters, I don’t see anyone who is going to stop Anthony Davis. In the three games Davis has played against POR this year, he’s finished with a 131 Ortg shooting 65% from the field. Add in the fact that NO is entering the playoffs having won 5 in a row, this should absolutely be a wild series. POR is great at home, but NO had the third most road wins of any team in the West at 24-17. They have a unicorn in Davis. The problem is the Pelicans defense STINKS, giving up 110 points a night. That’s dangerous in the playoffs and by far the most allowed points of any playoff team in either conference.

My Pick: Blazers in 7

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Utah Jazz

If you’re an OKC fan, you have to love tie breakers! Just when it looked like maybe OKC was going to miss the playoffs, they end up with homecourt in the first round, imagine that. More good news for the Thunder is they beat this UTA team 3 times already this season. The bad news is they lats played when the Jazz were 15-19. These two teams haven’t faced each other since December. The Jazz are a completely different team than the one OKC had previously faced, so really you can throw their regular season matchups out the window.

The Jazz are taking their elite level defense into OKC and are daring the Thunder to figure it out. Both teams are loaded with high end talent and solid coaching and while it’s unfair to put these sort of expectations on a rookie in Mitchell, this could very well be a huge series for him going up against Westbrook. If he plays him somewhat even, and UTA can keep up the type of offense that has them averaging 113 points this month, this series is going to go down to the wire. They key will be for the Jazz to take care of the basketball, as the Thunder lead the NBA in points off turnovers. This could be a problem since the Jazz were 20th this year in TOs, but if they defend and take care of the ball, they could pull it out.

My Pick: Jazz in 7

I’m choosing to believe in Quinn Snyder, and if Kawhi comes back that series becomes a toss up in my opinion. The West in my opinion will have closer, longer series with one upset and if things break the way I have them here, the second round would be awesome. What makes this conference different than the East is that all of the lower seeded teams are loaded with more overall talent and these teams have been bunched together for so long, everyone is kind of in the same boat. Unlike the East where there are clearly tiers, if Curry is out the West is basically HOU on one level, and then everyone else grouped together. It should be awesome to watch unfold.