2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs Preview
It’s that time of year again. The REAL NBA season finally begins. This years playoffs stand to be some of the greatest… ever. Playoff seeding was literally dependent upon all 82 games, with nearly no position set in stone until the last few games of the season. The 2-3-4 slots in the West were determined at the end of the very last game on the very last day of the season. Awesome. Now that playoff seeding is finally in place, let’s briefly preview the match-ups. Some will prove to be grind-it-out series while others will prove to be much easier tasks. One thing is for sure, as we proceed further into the playoffs, no series is guaranteed. In many ways the NBA is more wide open than it has been in years. With the Bulls and the Lakers as the favorites at this point, the Thunder, Heat, Spurs and Mavs should garner tons of respect. And hell, you never know, one of them could shock everyone and take the title home.
1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
This series seems like a given. Spurs win in easy fashion, right? Well, I don’t think it’s as clean cut as that since there are a ton of factors at play here. Firstly, we don’t know Manu Ginobli’s status right now. Without him the Spurs are a very different bunch. Tony Parker will do a fantastic job of leading the way and Duncan has been resting and coasting through the season to reserve himself for this one last shot at a championship. You better believe that Tim Duncan will have flashes of his old self in this series and any others that he is a part of. Here’s really what it comes down to: A) The Spurs health B) Which Grizzlies team shows up. The Grizzlies are bruisers. They’re a core of some big and semi-tough guys and they’ll come to play. Randolph is very underrated and he’ll most definitely give Tim Duncan some problems. Marc Gasol will be effective as well. At the end though, Tony Parker and Ginobli (if he plays, which I bet he will) will be far too much to handle for the inexperienced Grizzlies.
prediction: Spurs win 4-1
2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 7 New Orleans Hornets
The Lakers quest for a 3rd straight title begins with the Hornets. At the outside this series looks fairly clean cut. The Lakers swept the Hornets in their 4 meetings during the regular season and the Hornets seemingly create only one matchup problem for that Lakers. The Lakers typically struggle with quick point guards, and among them Chris Paul is arguably the best of the bunch. The Lakers can easily overwhelm the Hornets front court and can use their excellent perimeter defenders in Kobe and Ron Artest coupled with the brute strength of Derek Fisher to wear Paul down. As long as the Lakers come in to the playoffs as a focused unit, there’s almost no team that will be able to stop them.
prediction: Lakers win 4-0
3 Dallas Mavericks vs 6 Portland Trailblazers
This is a series that carries a ton of intrigue. Both teams enter the playoffs this year in very low-key fashion. I’m sure people will start paying attention though when they realize that this is one of those series that has major upset potential. The Blazers come into the playoffs looking really good. With their recent acquisition of Gerald Wallace and with LaMarcus Aldridge playing the best basketball of his career, a somewhat Gimpy Brandon Roy seems like an afterthought here. Then there’s the Mavericks who have, at best, an unpredictable offense that relies heavily on Dirk Nowitzki. That being said, Jason Kidd has somehow found a way to remain in incredible shape and play high level basketball for years now. Although he’s in the twilight of his career, come playoff time he’s one of those guys that turns it up a notch in the hopes of winning a title. Both Dirk and Kidd realize that their chances are dwindling and I’d be shocked if they didn’t show up to play. In then end this will be a grind it out series and we just might see an upset. With home court advantage though, I see the Mavs winning a close one.
prediction: Mavs win 4-3
4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5 Denver Nuggets
Outside of the Knicks and the Celtics, I think this will be the must watch series of the first round. Ever since the trade (Carmelo and Chauncey to the Knicks) Denver has been playing fantastic basketball. I do think though, that with no true superstar left on the team, Denver will struggle to score down the stretch of a close game. The Thunder are a damn good team. They play well together, have a bonafide superstar in Kevin Durant, and not to mention the powerhouse that is Russell Westbrook. With the addition of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder put themselves over the top. They will win this series and maybe more. They’re one piece and one more season of experience away from becoming a legit championship contender. This round goes to the Thunder in a series that I believe won’t be as close as people expect it to be.
prediction: Thunder win 4-2