Friday, April 17, 2015
2015 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
This is going to be a fantastic and fun series to watch. The Clippers can shed the talk about them the past few seasons that they are a good regular season team but can't take the next step in the playoffs. Even just winning a playoff series wouldn't necessarily change that perception for people, but if they knock off the defending champions, that will earn people's respect.
Both of these teams are playing their best basketball of the year, which means fans can expect peak performances and the best matchup possible from both sides. Chris Paul versus Tony Parker and Blake Griffin versus Tim Duncan are two fantastic battles. It is such a classic battle of youth versus veteran influence. The advantage as far as athleticism obviously will go with Paul and Griffin in those battles, but basketball isn't only about athleticism. The advantage in smarts goes to the Spurs veterans who are so battle tested that a matchup like this they could almost handle in their sleep. We even get to see a Duke versus Carolina battle with shooting guard J.J. Redick going against Spurs shooting guard Danny Green. DeAndre Jordan makes a ton of wow plays, but his counterpart Thiago Splitter makes the smart plays. Then you have the wildness of Matt Barnes, against the calm demeanor and workmanlike approach of Kawhi Leonard.
The Spurs get a ton of contributions off the bench from Marco Belinelli. Manu Ginobli and Boris Diaw. The Clippers bench will counter with chucker Jamal Crawford, and Spencer Hawes, but the Spurs will definitely have the depth advantage. This series will not just be an exhibition in great basketball and athleticism but also the psychology of the game. Two coaches with NBA titles, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers will try to outwit each other and Rivers will try to will an effort out of his players that they haven't been able to give in the past.
Lowest Seed to Advance: #6 San Antonio
The defending champions were underwhelming for a large portion of the season, but caught fire towards the end of the year. They are peaking at just the right time and remind me of the #6 seed Houston Rockets that won the NBA title in 1995. They will be highly dangerous in the playoffs and I fully expect them to reach the Western Conference Finals and engage in a classic battle with the Warriors.
Best One on One Matchup: Rockets SG James Harden vs. Mavericks SG Monta Ellis
If the Oklahoma City Thunder had managed to make the playoffs then this would have easily gone to Russell Westbrook facing Steph Curry. Now, the mantle for best one on one matchup in the First Round of the Western Conference playoffs involves another MVP candidate James Harden, as he faces Monta Ellis. Neither player is known for their defense, although Harden did make a concerted effort to improve on that side of the floor. Ellis was excellent for the Mavs, averaging 19 points a game. He led the Mavericks in scoring, a mantle long held by Dirk Nowitzki. For the Mavericks to upset Houston, Ellis will have to keep the scoring pace with Harden. Harden was incredible this season, carrying a Rockets team without Dwight Howard for the majority of the season to 56 wins. Everyone talks about Harden's scoring, but as a shooting guard he still averaged 7 assists per game and did a great job of getting his teammates involved. These two players will show the best that offense has to offer in the NBA and will be highly entertaining.
#1 Golden State Warriors over #8 New Orleans Pelicans, 4-1
#5 Memphis Grizzlies over #4 Portland Trail Blazers, 4-2
#2 Houston Rockets over #7 Dallas Mavericks, 4-3
#6 San Antonio Spurs over #3 Los Angeles Clippers, 4-2