South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview: The West

Welcome to South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview #SaturdayMorningSpecial. With the help of my friend Headley Bent, we’ll provide you with a quick and efficient breakdown of the Western Conference Playoffs to get your morning started before we get to the first set of today’s playoff games. So get your popcorn coffee ready, we got you covered….

What player can make himself a star in the Western Conference Playoffs?

Cee: Damian Lillard. Especially in the 1st round vs. Houston. He’ll have a pest guarding him in Patrick Beverley that will do everything in his power to get under his skin, but Lillard is not only a great talent, but he has that icy calm demeanor that’s almost built for the playoffs. I can see him exploding on the Rockets (no pun intended) for some big numbers this series (prediction: 25/5/6; 45% FG/88%FT/43% 3FG, at least 5-7 backbreaking 3s). This will be Lillard’s official coming out party, he’s a beast ready to be unleashed from the cage, & the Beverley/Lin combo won’t be able to match.

Does part of me want to see the Rockets lose in the 1st round just to see the possible train wreck capabilities? Sure. But the reason I think Portland will beat Houston in this round is because I think you can score points on Houston. A lot! Especially in the last half of the season. Plus Houston depends on too many 3s which I think could bite them in the ass against Portland if they are not shooting well. More than James Harden, this series depends on how well Dwight Howard controls the paint on both ends of the floor. If he flashes that 2009 D12 version who put Orlando on his back all the way to the Finals, then my prediction will be wrong. But I think that version of him is diminished now. This version I can see getting frustrated with Robin Lopez on offense, being annoyed that he’s not getting enough touches to match what LaMarcus Aldridge is doing to his team. I’m calling the Blazers in 6 with numerous Lillard stories popping out the woodwork.

Headley: To be a star, you need to play a couple rounds at least. So that automatically drops Golden St., Memphis, and Dallas. But I will say this, with Memphis getting the #7 seed, let’s just say I’ll be watching that series against OKC closely. It hurts because Steph Curry could be that guy if his team went deep. San Antonio and OKC have their megastars solidified and have been to the finals, so to me, that leaves LAC, Houston, or Portland to have somebody step out of the shadows. LAC and Houston have “programmed stars” so a run won’t develop a star. That to me leaves Portland. And I do like them edging out Houston, so I think it’s time for LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to up the ante. Both are All-Stars with no post season glamour. It would be fitting for Lillard after his first All-Star (doing all five events during All Star Weekend) and him freshly inking a $100M Adidas contract to go H.A.M. What’s Weber State school colors again? I’m rooting for him, especially since Aldridge, just a year ago, was leaking stories he wanted out… and he did want out.

Who is the Darkhorse Favorite?

Cee: I would have said Golden State if Andrew Bogut didn’t get sidelined with fractured ribs. Now the Clippers will abuse the paint in what will still be an incredible series. However, after seeing what we saw in last year’s playoffs, I won’t count out another Steph Curry shooting rampage from occurring. Curry much like LeBron & Durant, has the ability to carry you for an entire series if possible, but we’ll rule them out as I think the Clippers are too deep for them, & will have no answer whatsoever for Chris Paul, & especially Blake Griffin.

You know what? I’m gonna say the Clippers. I don’t care if they are the 3rd seed, considering the only time they made the NBA Finals was when I used them in season mode on NBA 2K12, they get the nod here. Right now as it stands, Oklahoma City has had their number the last few years whenever they’ve been fully healthy; and San Antonio is, well, San Antonio. They love to take away what you do best during the playoffs, be it pick-and-rolls, duck-ins, drives and kicks, etc. However, for the Clippers to get to the Finals, Griffin has to continue to be dominant and if possible, take his game to a higher level and attack the Spurs’ bigs relentlessly. In fact, both he and DeAndre Jordan (only the 3rd player in NBA history to lead the league in Rebounds and Field Goal percentage) have to own the paint these playoffs, it doesn’t matter how great Chris Paul plays. Their playoff success depends on those two guys. We’ll see if they learned anything from the beat down they took from Gasol & Z-Bo in last year’s playoffs vs. Memphis.

Headley: Isn’t the LA Clippers as a #3 seed a darkhorse? If not… I like Portland to cause noise because if they sneak by Houston, their legs will be hard for San Antonio to handle. I’m not ready to count the Spurs out (they’re too resilient),  but I really think the Portland matchup against Houston is harder than the Spurs matchup. So there. I said it…kinda…sorta….

Between Houston, Golden State and Los Angeles Clippers, Who Would be Devastated the Most by a 1st Round Upset?

Cee: I think the Clippers would be hurt the most by this. The Clippers owner Donald Sterling, as we all know, has been notoriously cheap with his money when it comes to spending on talent (among other things). In the past few years, due to the additions of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, he has opened his wallet up. This past offseason, they added to their bench, signed J.J. Reddick, & most importantly, gave free reign and power to Doc Rivers, and the head coach and VP of basketball operations. The last thing they want to do is follow up last season’s 1st round flameout (with 55 wins in the regular season) with the most wins in franchise history (57) and another first round flameout. It’s not going to mash the team up this offseason or anything to that affect, but with the Lakers down right now, this is the perfect time to go on a lengthy playoff run & really solidify themselves with the city of Los Angeles. If they go down in the 1st round yet again & the Lakers happen to reload this offseason, they would have wasted yet another opportunity and they’ll continue to be the little brothers of Staples Center and the City until they get over the hump.

Headley: Let’s drop Golden St. out of this competition because they are going to lose. And as sixth seed… you can’t be that devastated can you?!??! Yes they had higher hopes when the season began but between the assistant coach carousal and injuries, it is what it is. I don’t see the G-State bringing out the towels. It has to be between the two teams with home court advantage. I see the Clippers learning from their early exit from Memphis last year to not repeat that scenario…. but if it did happen, they would be demoralized. However, seeing that I have them in the finals, I see the probability of it happening to Houston. To recap, G-State shouldn’t be that upset. When an acne-faced girl doesn’t get asked to the prom, you’re disappointed but not surprised. With the Clippers just recording the best season in franchise history, they would take the loss the worse, but I think Houston has the best chance of being devastated with a matchup against Portland. Portland is playing well to end the season and ending with identical records. Momentum might be the difference with Portland getting the edge. And Portland seems fresher right now. I see Houston with the higher probability of being disappointed. After the exhausting experience of finally landing Howard and hosting a playoff series in years, they didn’t do all this positioning for the last three off seasons to lose in May.

Who Will Come Out the West?

Cee: Playoffs is as much about avoiding certain matchups than anything else. TNT’s Kenny Smith always claims that his Houston team won those back-to-back titles, but happily avoided the Seattle Sonic teams with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp along the way because that team without question had their number. They lost to them in the 1993 playoffs, avoided them when the Sonics were upset by both the Denver Nuggets in ’94 & the Lakers in ’95 in the 1st round. When they met them in the ’96 playoffs, the Sonics ran through them like bad taco meat. I feel like San Antonio feels the same way about Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Two years ago, they lost the last four games of a six-game series and it looked like the future in the West belonged to the Thunder. Then last season, Harden gets traded, Westbrook goes down with a knee injury in Round one, and OKC goes down to Memphis in Round two, leaving the door open for the Spurs to capitalize (which they did). With OKC fully healthy and going into the playoffs, they, more than the Spurs, are the favorite to get out of the West, unless Westbrook’s knee gives out again. The Durant/Westbrook combo has given the Spurs a lot of problems in the past, and the way Durant has improved from even last season will only be harder for the Spurs to deal with.  If OKC makes it to the conference Finals, they will go to the NBA Finals. If they don’t, it will be the Spurs that will go in their place.

Headley: The way San Antonio is playing, it’s hard to count them out. Although each year I expect them to bow out and they never do, like they on that HGH and keep turning the clock back. I, however, don’t see OKC being their foe in the finals. KD is money, but Westbrook doesn’t have any sense. With Perkins deteriorating like paper under a sunny window sill, and G-State, Houston, LAC, Memphis, and Portland all getting stronger in the paint…..I see the team to beat SA (yes beat) is the LA Clippers. Had they not lost their starting backcourt to a combined +60 games… they would probably have the best record in the NBA. Plus, I’m a fan of their mid-season pickups (Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Danny Granger), which will help them with any depth issues too.

Western Conference Playoff Predictions

Cal Cee

1st Round

1. Spurs over 8. Mavericks

5. Trailblazers over 4. Rockets

2. Thunder over 7. Memphis

3. Clippers over 6. Warriors

Western Semis

1. Spurs over 5. Trailblazers

2. Thunder over 3. Clippers

Conference Finals

2. Thunder over 1. San Antonio

Headley

1st Round

1. Spurs over 8. Mavericks

5. Trailblazers over 4. Rockets

2. Thunder over 7. Grizzlies

3. Clippers over 6. Warriors

Western Semis

3. Clippers over 2. Thunder

1. Spurs over 5. Trailblazers

Conference Finals

3. Clippers over Spurs

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

Follow me on Twitter or email me at southshoreave@gmail.com

Special thanks to Headley Bent for contributing to this article/posting.

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