16 April 2011

Western Conference playoff predictions

I don't have quite as many thoughts about the matchups in the West, and it's late, so this post will be a bit shorter than my one from earlier today.

Memphis-San Antonio

I know what you're thinking. "The Grizzlies? In the playoffs? Against the Spurs? I'll get my broom." And yes, while the Duncan\Ginobili\Parker trio has been winning championships since what seems like the Reagan presidency, these are not the 2003 Spurs, and the Grizzlies are better than you think.

Zach Randolph had a monster season for Memphis, averaging 20 and 12 on 50% shooting and often pulling down upwards of 20 rebounds in one night. Sure, he's crazy, but at least lately, he's been good crazy. Put him next to Pau's little brother and you have a formidable front court, maybe enough to contain Timmy.

If Rudy Gay were healthy (out for the entire playoffs with a shoulder injury) I may give even pick the Grizzlies with some confidence, but as it is, San Antonio's experience and coaching is just too much. Maybe next year, Grizz.

Spurs in 5.

New Orleans-Los Angeles (Lakers)

This matchup is just sad. Chris Paul is working on what I have heard are knees completely devoid of cartilage, and his best teammate, David West, is done for the year. Outside of these two, no one else scored more than 11 points per game this season, and I guess Emeka Okafor is their second banana for the series. Yikes.

Meanwhile, L.A. has looked disinterested more than not over the last few weeks, losing to the Jazz, among other terrible squads. That said, Odom has been lights out since marrying that Kardashian robot, averaging 14 and 9 on 53% shooting, and Pau is Pau. If Bynum can be healthy, it's tough for anyone to beat these guys, let alone a team led by a crippled point guard.

The only way I see L.A. dropping even a single game is if Kobe goes into Bad Kobe mode and shoots 40 shots at a 23% clip. Not going to happen; he only goes into that mode when he's worried, and the Hornets won't put up enough of a fight to rattle him.

Lakers in 4.


An interesting series, if only because both teams have received a lot of hype in the past, and then came crashing down to earth. The Mavs haven't been the same team since losing to the Heat in the Finals in 2006, and the Blazers have finally succumbed to the hex put on them by that witch, and injuries to just about every player on that team = bad times.

Dirk is Dirk, and the 7-foot shooting guard submitted another great season, scoring 23 points per game on 51/40/90 percentages while pulling down 7 rebounds a night. That said, he's lacking a Robin to his Batman. Jason Terry and Caron Butler are good players, but not suited to carry more of a scoring load than they already do. Then you have the broken shell of Shawn Marion (12 points and 6 boards a game) and Tyson Chandler, who's a double-double machine when healthy.

Portland has some good pieces: LaMarcus Aldridge turned in the best season of his career, but before the Gerald Wallace trade, no one else on the roster was especially impressive. Brandon Roy's knees are gone. Wesley Matthews is good, but he's not the key to winning a championship. Wallace has been decidedly Gerald Wallacey for the Blazers, averaging two blocks, two steals and seven rebounds per game on top of 15 points. In addition, he's the exact type of defender that has been able to slow Dirk down in the past.

In short, this is a tossup. Dallas has homecourt, which I imagine will be a big advantage, but not enough of one to affect the final outcome.

Blazers in 7.

Oklahoma City-Denver

To start, the Thunder are my pick to beat the Lakers in the playoffs this season. They almost did it in 2010 without any kind of defensive post presence, and with Perkins, I see them pulling it off. But to get there, they have to get past a surprisingly lively Denver team.

The Nuggets lost both Carmelo and Chauncey Billups in February, but managed to finish the season winning 18 of their last 25 games. Looking at the roster, this team is filled with great role players, but the closest thing they have to a star is Nene. That said, who is Oklahoma City going to guard? Gallinari is a scorer, Afflalo is a waterbug, Wilson Chandler was a fan favorite in New York and J.R. Smith can get hot at any time. There's nobody to key on.

Meanwhile, the Thunder are humming. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have proven themselves to be the best backcourt in basketball, and with the added strength of Perkins in the middle and a freed Ibaka roaming around creating havoc, this is a well-built squad.

It should be an entertaining series, but in the end, OK City's star power is too much for the Ewing Theory Nuggets to overcome.

Thunder in 5.

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