Loaded Western Conference playoffs feature great matchups
April 25, 2014
What a start to the first round of the NBA Playoffs! After last year’s boring first-round blowouts, the first week has been incredibly entertaining. The Western Conference has seen its share of intriguing upsets, as home teams are just 4-6. Let’s take a look at how the four series are playing out.
Spurs vs. Mavericks: Dallas should be up 2-0 in this one, but the Mavs blew a 10-point lead in game one, and then rebounded for a stunning 113-92 blowout in San Antonio. The Spurs have looked awful for 7.5 out of 8 quarters so far, with 32 turnovers in the two games, as opposed to Dallas’ 15. What’s even more remarkable about Dallas’ success so far is that they haven’t had to rely on spectacular performances from Dirk Nowitzki or Monta Ellis. Dirk has a modest 27 points and has shot 11-33 from the field, and Ellis has 34 points on 12-34 from the field. Neither guy is leading the Mavs in scoring total these two games; that would be backup guard Devin Harris, who I thought was out of the league until a few weeks ago. Dirk and Monta will play better, but so will San Antonio. Dallas is in great position heading back home for two games, but I know better than to doubt the Spurs.
Thunder vs. Grizzlies: This is shaping up to go seven games, and whoever wins the series will be exhausted for the next round. Memphis has been stellar on defense, specifically Tony Allen somehow slowing down Kevin Durant, even though KD has a six inch height advantage. Allen also was the hero/goat late in regulation, and then the hero/goat in overtime after Russell Westbrook hit another ridiculous four-point play for OKC, after Durant’s insane shot in game one. The Thunder are in serious trouble, and need to figure out their offense, specifically late-game scenarios, which has consisted of “everyone get out of the way for Durant/Westbrook” and hasn’t worked. KD has played subpar (for him) the past two games, but I’m sure he’ll come out strong in game four and lead OKC to a hard-fought win. Regardless, this will most likely go seven games, and don’t be shocked if the Grizz pull it out.
Clippers vs. Warriors: A solid series, but it’s been somewhat overshadowed by the other three series, which shows how great the first week of these playoffs have been. The key for the Clippers to win this series will be to run their offense through Blake Griffin for the first three quarters, and then let Chris Paul take over late, which worked in their win last night. Simply put, the Clippers are a slightly better than the Warriors when Griffin is on the floor and not on the bench due to foul trouble. Blake has 67 points in the Clips’ two wins, and only 16 in limited minutes in the game one loss. With all that being said, the Warriors still had a chance to win the game. They shot 6-31 from three with 17 turnovers, and still would’ve won if Steph Curry made that last-second shot. That poor of a shooting night will not happen again, and I expect the Splash Brothers to bounce back in game four and even the series.
Rockets vs. Trail Blazers: This is easily the most surprising series after two games. No one would have been surprised if the teams split at Houston and travelled to Portland tied 1-1, but the Blazers shocked a lot of people and won the first two games on the road. LaMarcus Aldridge has played out of his mind, putting up 46 points and 18 rebounds in Portland’s comeback win in game one, then 43 points and 8 rebounds in game two. However, they would not be up 2-0 right now without Damian Lillard’s clutch plays down the stretch in game one, especially after Aldridge fouled out in overtime. Lillard had 31 points in that game, and despite poor shooting on Wednesday, still had 18 points and 11 assists. James Harden needs to step it up if the Rockets have any hope of winning the series. Harden is 14-47 from the field with 9 turnovers to go along with his typical atrocious defense so far. Dwight Howard has played well overall, but missed some crucial free throws late in game one after Portland went to Hack-a-Howard. It’s safe to say game three is a must-win for Houston, since no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason.