Now that we are in the home-stretch of the season, its time to start getting serious about the postseason, and the matchups that are bound to come. Most expect the Warriors to reach the Finals for the second year in a row, raining threes and hell on all teams that stand in their way; but what about the other eight teams in the Western Conference?
First Round: Right now, the Warriors are at the top of the West with a league best record of 61-6; if the playoffs were to start today, the Dubs would be facing the Mavs in a first round series. I pick the Warriors to win this series in a 4-1 rout of the Mavericks and move on to round two as everyone expects. But what if the Mavericks slip out of the playoffs and the Jazz slide into the not-so-coveted eight seed?
Utah Jazz: If the Jazz can continue their great play, on a current three game win streak and only two wins behind the Mavs, they have a legitimate chance of a playoff berth after missing the postseason since the 2011-’12 season. If the Jazz can grab this eight seed, I actually see them pushing the Warriors. Utah has an elite inside defensive core with Rudy Gobert (Averaging 11 REBS, & two blocks), and Derrick Favors (Averaging 17 points and nearly two blocks). The Jazz are also being led by the all-around weapon that is Gordon Hayward, who is in the midst of a career scoring year (20 points Per Game). If the Warriors were to face off against a physical and large team like the Jazz, they might find difficulty in some matchups, but I still think they would find a way to prevail and win the series 4-2.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets are an extremely curious team, as you never know what your getting from them on a nightly basis. There is no doubt that a James Harden (Averaging 28 points and seven assis\ts) v. Steph Curry (Averaging 30 points and six assists) Matchup would be beautiful, not to mention it would be a rematch from last year, but I don’t think it would end well for the Rockets. Harden and the Rockets showed fortitude coming back from a three game deficit to the Clippers in last years playoffs, and for that fact, I’m giving Houston a fighting chance. The “Beard’ and “D12” would make it difficult, but I once again see the Warriors surviving in a 4-1 series win.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers have been one of the scrappiest teams in the Association this year; going from being a contender in last years postseason to now fighting for a respectable seed, Rip City is no joke. Being led by the impeccable play from Damian Lillard (Avg. 25 points, seven ASTS, and four REBs, all career highs), and the vastly improved game of C.J. McCollum (Avg. 20 points an four assists), the Blazers are certainly fighting. Known for the 32 point loss they handed to the Warriors in February, the Blazers would be going up against a great team with something not many other teams can boast, confidence they can win and win big against the Dubs. I think this confidence, coupled with Lillard’s playoff experience and elite composure will help in making for a seriously entertaining playoff series. Unfortunately for Portland, I still see them losing in a six game series to the Warriors.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizz have had the definition of an up-and-down season this year. After losing Marc Gasol to injury early in 2016, the hopes of a legitimate playoff run were hurt but not completely dashed; but after all of the subsequent injuries to important team pieces, how much more hope can Memphis have. If they were to meet the Warriors in the playoffs and some of their key players like Conley can get back, I see the Grizzlies winning maybe one game against Golden State. Unfortunately, I think it is more realistic to expect a 4-0 series win for Golden State against a beat up and battered down Memphis team.
Los Angeles Clippers: Over the last few seasons, the Clips have not been able to make it over the hump in the Western Conference, often flailing out in memorable fashion close to the promise land. But could this be the year for L.A. ? With a Chris Paul who is playing some of his best basketball (Avg. 21 points and 12 assists in last 10 games), and a Doc Rivers with a team that actually has a bench, why cant this be the Clippers year to make it to the Finals? But in order for them to even think about the Finals, the fourth seed Clippers are going to have to beat the Warriors. These two teams have played a bit this year, and it has actually been the Clippers that have looked better, even in their losses. If the Clips can find some confidence and are given a boost by the return of a fresh Blake Griffin, I can actually see this series going seven games…In favor of the Dubs.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The three games between the Warriors and Thunder have been nothing short of classics this year; if these two teams were to meet in the Playoffs, I think its safe to say to expect the same result. I genuinely believe that in a series, the Russell Westbrook v. Steph Curry matchup would end in favor of Westbrook who’s 24 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, and energy would eventually tire out the MVP in Curry. I can also see Durant playing smart and getting Draymond Green into foul trouble early, thus making his job of scoring much easier. I also see Klay Thompson getting shut down in this hypothetical series. If these two meet, I can only hope it goes seven games, I genuinely think that either team stands a chance of winning but realistically see the Warriors winning 4-3.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are the second best team in the Association, and considering the talent this year, that’s saying something. At 58-10, this team is powering through the regular season and making it look easy. But with their aging yet skilled roster, are they good enough to beat the stacked roster if Golden State in a playoff series? I say yes. Kawhi Leonard has thrust himself into three major award categories, MVP, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of The Year with his stellar all around play in the 2015-’16 campaign. Leonard is averaging a career high 21 points, while maintaining his other averages and has stepped up into a leadership role on the team while LaMarcus Aldridge has fell in very well in San Antonio. I think Leonard is as hungry to get another shot at locking Curry up as Popovich is at getting a chance to beat the Warriors. If these two elite teams meet in the wild wild West, I see it going six games to the Spurs.
All Stats via ESPN.com
All Images via Google.com