The Western Conference Playoffs. Interesting storylines with each team, and each series. To be completely real, the Western Conference has better overall teams than the Eastern Conference (If you didn’t know this common fact, then I’m gonna pray for you). The East has the best team with the best player in the game (LeBane), but at the same time, I love watching the west teams battle each other. It’s entertaining. Let’s begin.
1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs 8) Houston Rockets
Now this will be interesting. Remember when James Harden was a member of the Thunder this year? I mean, he was for 5 minutes before getting traded. Now, he’s bringing his team to play the West’s best team. This Houston team is a piece away from being one of the league’s best. What is it? I don’t know what the exact thing is. Maybe it’s their bench. Maybe it’s their lack of a 4 man. Before the season, I felt like Houston was going to miss the playoffs because I felt like the Rockets weren’t ready. But with Harden, and Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons (Yes, Chandler Parsons. The one from Florida. The one who had the moppy head, who didn’t even look athletic, but now he’s getting to the rim, and looking like a future All-Star.), this Houston team has a nice future.
Oklahoma City is a team that has grown up under our eyes. Kevin Durant has proven to be an all-around player, and the fact that he went 50-40-90 (51 percent from the field, 41 from three, and 91 percent from the line. He’s 6’11 with a jumper like a guard) this season, and he might be the 2nd most important player on their team… that’s scary. Russell Westbrook makes Kevin Durant’s job so much easier. It’s crazy to me how people still say that if Westbrook wasn’t on the Thunder, Kevin Durant would average more points. I’m one of those people who say that, “Yeah, Kevin Durant would probably average 33 a game, but he’d take 27 shots to get those points.” I’m gonna be real here. If Russell Westbrook wasn’t on the Thunder, Kevin Durant would be another George Gervin (Okay, that’s not totally fair, but I’m hot right now so you’ll let me cook). Great scorer, but, you would always be questioning if he could ever get to the finals (Gervin never got there, while Durant got their last year). Mr. Westbrook makes his game so much better.
Watching the Rockets play against my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers on the last game of the season, I couldn’t help but notice how terrible their late-game execution was. If it wasn’t for a Chandler Parsons #YOLOLineDriveJumper, we’d all be talking about how stupid the Houston Rockets were. Shoot, even Simmons, Wilbon, and Rose said this after the game last night. For as good as James Harden is, he has to know when to take control of his team. He’s the number 1 option. Go get the damn ball (KEYSHAWN TAUGHT ME), and make a play for your teammates. When I saw Chandler Parsons in overtime have an iso, and dribble the ball down, and then get blocked on a layup, I was screaming at my TV, and I’m a Laker fan. Then, I see Jeremy Lin have a jumper or a attempt to attack the rim on the wing, he held the ball, waited 3 seconds, and then wanted an iso. Result of that possession? AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRBAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Houston gave the 7 seed to the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Gave it. Up 11. Let the Lakers come back. Got lucky to get to OT, and then couldn’t ride the momentum of Parsons jumper. My point?
If Houston will do that against the Lakers, it’s no telling what they’ll do against Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City is not only better than you, they WANT to play the way you want to. Up and down, isolations, etc. Jeremy Lin can’t guard Russell Westbrook. I like Chandler Parsons, but he really can’t guard Kevin Durant. Asik isn’t an offensive weapon on the block (Neither is Kendrick Perkins. Speaking of him, why hasn’t OKC gotten rid of him yet? To cue my Stephen A. Smith rant about Kwame Brown, HE HAS NO HANDS; HE CANT CATCH THE BALL. HE DOESNT KNOW A POST MOVE THAT HE CAN USE TO MEMORY. ALL HE DOES IS MEAN MUG AND SET ILLEGAL SCREENS LIKE HIS FORMER MENTOR IN KEVIN GARNETT!).
OKC in 5 (I do think Houston will win a game 4 in Houston… after it’s 3-0 OKC, and Scott Brooks decides to take the day off from coaching. Wait, that’s almost every game).
2) San Antonio Spurs vs 7) Los Angeles Lakers
Wait. Timeout. I need a moment (Let me be the Laker fan that Twitter wants me to be). WE ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS! YES! IN YOUR FACE @JalenRose @BillSimmons @MichaelWilbon @TheJETOnTNT!!!! WE IN HERE! WE GONNA WIN THE WHOLE THING TOO! AND EVEN IF WE DON’T, WE GOT RINGZZZ AND YOU DONT HAVE ANY!
Glad we got that out the way (I haven’t done that in well, ever. When I go back and read this blog in a few months, I’ll be amazed at how I acted like THAT type of Laker fan, and you will too).
The Spurs are really coming in… sort of… sliding (BUT THEY SIGNED T-MAC!!!!!!). But the Spurs haven’t really played everyone in their regular rotation. Manu Ginobili is banged up a bit, and maybe, maybe fathertime got him. Tony Parker has the ankle problem, and might have a shin problem. When Parker was healthy, the Spurs were looking like a team who could really win the West, while Parker was a MVP candidate (For the race to finish 2nd). But now, Parker is slowly returning to his midseason form, and the Spurs are coming in… slowly. One guy who isn’t coming in slow is Tim Duncan. Last year, Duncan probably had his worst season as a pro (But then again, it was a shorten season, so I’ll give him a pass), and this year, the old man stepped his game up by improving his numbers in every statistical category.
The Los Angeles Lakers. You know, as a Laker fan here, I have to be honest. I don’t even know how this team is in the playoffs. The starting five didn’t even play half the season together. Steve Nash got hurt in game two, and hasn’t really recovered with his current hamstring, Kobe Bryant has a torn achilles (https://shaunhoward.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/kobe-bryant-out-for-the-year-what-does-this-mean-for-the-lakers-and-his-career/), Metta World Peace (Why did I just type that?) had a torn meniscus, Pau Gasol had the plantar fasciitis foot injuries, and Dwight Howard had the back surgery over the summer,and then the torn labrum. Not to add that Steve Blake had the abdominal injury, and Jordan Hill was lost due to the hip surgery. Crazy, huh?
The Lakers started off 17-25 in 42 games. Panic was shifted from a lot of Laker fans (myself included). Since then? The Lakers have been 30-12, and have the 5th best record in the league since the All-Star Break (But nobody speaks about this because it’s the Lakers). The past couple of games since Bryant is out, the Lakers have gone to the “Let’s have the offensive go through our big guys instead of our guards because when that happens, we have two of the best big guys in the league” and it’s somewhat made me a believer.
The Lakers are playing with house money in my honest opinion. We’re testing out the Ewing Theory here with the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Lakers advance without Kobe Bryant playing, I have a little bit of advice for Kobe Bryant: Don’t ruin this next season. Just sit back, let that achilles heal up, and let Dwight be the man (I can’t believe I said that Dwight Howard should be the man of my favorite team. I really don’t like that dude, but since he’s somewhat coming back to his form, I’ll let him cook!). We all know Gregg Popovich is 100x the coach that Mike D’Antoni is. The Spurs are the 2 seed in the west because they play together on both ends of the floor, and have been all season long. It took the Lakers 79 games to realize that defense is fundamental.
Spurs in 7. I just don’t see them losing this series, and even though the Lakers are coming in better than the Spurs, the Spurs have better guards, and I’m not sure if the Lakers can continue to get this type of offensive explosion from Steve Blake. However, if Danny Green/Tony Parker isn’t hitting shots, and Duncan is neutralized by Gasol/Howard, and Howard is protecting the rim….. it’s possible.
3) Denver Nuggets vs 6) Golden State Warriors
Another “HMMMMM” series that on paper looks like it could be one of the best ones in the postseason. The Nuggets are intriguing to me. For one, they hardly lose at home. 38-3 at home all season, and they love to run, run, run. Denver doesn’t have a star player, but if anything, they play together, and they are extremely tough to beat at home. Ty Lawson is probably the fastest point guard in the league, and when he’s in transition with guys like Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, and one of the NBA’s greatest players of all-time in JAVALEEEEEEEEEEEEE MCGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (I just wanted to give him a plug), Denver is extremely dangerous to the point where I think they are a sleeper to win the West (Yes, even without Danilo Gallinari).
Golden State is probably my 2nd favorite team because of one guy, and one guy only: Stephen “I’m growing some facial hair but it’s not enough for me to not get carded at the bar” Curry. Curry broke Ray Allen’s record of three point makes in a season with 272 (Yes, that’s not a typo). Everyone is like, “OMG, STEPHEN CURRY! HE’S FUN TO WATCH!” I’m sitting here like, “Yeah… I called most of this a couple of years ago.” Curry has been slowed with injuries especially to his ankle, but now he’s healthy, and he’s not only the best shooter in the NBA, it’s possible for him to go down as one of the best shooters in the history of the league. The great thing about Curry is that he doesn’t do this just coming off screens. Most of this is with him having the ball. Just watch the tape against my Lakers.
Golden State is extremely fun to watch especially my boy Steph coming down shooting #NotSoMuchYOLOJumpersBecauseTheyAreInMyRange, and the fact that Klay Thompson shoots well enough from three. Harrison Barnes is actually being aggressive and dunking on people (As a Carolina hoops fan, this makes me sick that he’s always dunking on people now. Like, dude, what?). David Lee was an All-Star. The problem to me is this: who the hell is Golden State’s center? I hate to be this guy, but Andrew Bogut (I almost typed Bynum there, but from an injury standpoint, I still would have been right) can’t stay healthy for anything. Festus Ezeli is a rookie like Barnes, and I don’t think he’s ready for the playoffs, and well, Andris Biedrins is well, sorry.
Denver in 6 (Almost 7, but Curry misses a game-tying three to extend the series). I know Javale is a fool, but he does his job. Rebound, block shots, and runs the floor. Corey Brewer is a glue guy off the bench, and they’ve been here before. Mark Jackson has been there as a player, but it’s hard to beat Denver at home at their own game which is, and to quote Dick Vitale, “Run baby run!” I think Golden State is a year away from making real noise in the playoffs, but right now, Denver is better.
4) Los Angeles Clippers vs 5) Memphis Grizzlies
HEY LOOK! IT’S LA’S OTHER TEAM! (Oh sorry, I thought we got that Laker fan thing out of my system, I apologize.) The Clippers are making back to back playoff appearances in the first time since well, you know what. I don’t really know. This was the first time ever that they won a division title. If you’re a long time suffering Clippers fan, stand up and give yourself a pat on the back for sticking through years of losing, and not really being great until the front office drafted Blake Griffin with the #1 pick (If the Clippers didn’t trade Baron Davis when he looked so damn happy in that Kia Commercial, they could have Kyrie Irving as their point guard, but I’m sleep), and “traded” for Chris Paul (Notice how I put that in quotes because they traded for him, but didn’t really trade for him until Mr. Stern put the call in and said #ForBasketballReasons, make him go to LA, but once again, I’m sleep).
This is a rematch of last years interesting 7 game series that had a lot of bad blood, and a lot of #YOLOJumpers from Rudy Gay, and Nick Young saving the Clippers in game 7. These series is a contrast of styles because as we know about the Clippers, it’s this:
(I know it’s a remix of Rack City by Tyga, but anytime you have Tyga do something around your team, Just.. no.)
The Grizzlies want to beat you up, and defend you. The Grizzlies don’t even care about how ugly the game is because they can beat you on the low block with Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph, who’s had a so-so season. Tony Allen is an all-world defender, and Mike Conley isn’t a great point guard like Paul, but he’s good for this team, plus they have Tayshaun Prince, who’s been there in the playoffs, and is probably a better option at the 3 than Rudy Gay.
Deacon Coach Lionel Hollins lets his team play ugly, and slow. Personally, I don’t mind it because that’s how the Miami Heat and New York Knicks played games in the late 90s (Okay… on second thought, maybe I do mind it a bit).
The Clippers are one of the most exciting teams in the league. We all know about Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan dunking. We all know about Chris Paul and his ability to not only pass the basketball, but his ability to take over games late with his play-making, and we all know about Jamal Crawford, and his handles, his jumper, and how he leads one of the better benches in the NBA (It’s probably the best bench in the NBA). The real question is, can we trust Vinny Del Negro again? I feel like we ask this question all the time, but it’s something worth noting late in a game. Then again, the real coach is Chris Paul (I wish I was kidding about this).
I’ve had a fear all season long that the Clippers couldn’t play a half-court game, and that Blake Griffin would have to settle for 15 foot jumpers instead of get on the low block and make a move there. We all know DeAndre Jordan can’t make free throws, and even though he’s a great defensive force, there is NO way you can keep him on the floor in a close game. I’ve had this fear lately about the Grizzlies that they are going to face a team that can break their defensive pressure, and be able to break a game open, which will cause them to change their style. But usually, or at least on how I see it, it’s easier for a team that plays ugly enough to make the other team play ugly.
This is probably one of the tougher ones to pick, but I’m gonna go with the Grizzlies in 7. Memphis struggles to score, and I think that’ll be a problem, but they can force the Clippers to struggle to score, then obviously it’ll be choke hold, just like last year. I trust Marc Gasol on the low block down the stretch making plays than Blake Griffin. I trust Hollins over Del Negro, even though Del Negro and the Clippers beat them last year. For some reason, I feel like this Memphis team has a clip on their shoulder, and in their last 40 games, Memphis has gone 28-12. The Clippers? 23-17.
So that’s that. The NBA First round playoff preview is complete. I can’t wait to see how wrong I am, and how much I can make fun of myself when I write the 2nd round preview. Hopefully, the first round of the NBA playoffs isn’t wack like Will.I.Am. and that damn commercial.
If you have a comment, leave one on here, or tweet me at @kingshaundiz, or just don’t say anything, at all (No seriously, say something).