Finally the 2013 NBA playoffs are set to get underway. Starting this weekend, teams will battle for a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are the clear cut favorites to meet again in the NBA Finals. As always, the Western Conference is stacked and appears to be the dominate conference. With 45 wins, the 8th seed in the West would be the fifth seed in the East.
Every series in the West will be exciting and full of story lines. How well will the Lakers compete with the Spurs, without Kobe Bryant? Will Memphis get revenge over the Clippers in 2013? Is “Lob City” for real? Can James Harden will the Rockets to victory over his former squad? Can Golden State win two road games against a Denver squad that owns the best home record in the league?
While these questions will be answered on the court, let’s take a look at TNP’s Western Conference forecast shall we?
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) vs No. 8 Houston Rockets (45-37)
The odds were in the Houston Rockets’ favor to secure the 7th seed on the final night of the regular season. All Houston had to do was beat the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers and they would have avoided the mighty Thunder. Well, that’s why teams play the games! After controlling the first three-quarters of the game, LA got hot in the 4th quarter and stunned the Rockets in overtime.
The “Basketball Gods” must really love us! This couldn’t have been scripted any better. James Harden will get his chance to make his old team pay for trading him. He will definitely be a handful and a series win would be the sweetest revenge.
There won’t be a scoring shortage in this series as both teams were two of the top three scoring clubs in the league; Houston at no. 2 and OKC at no. 3. Transition defense will ultimately be the Rockets down fall as they won’t be able to keep up with the dynamic one-two punch of Durant and Westbrook. Russell Westbrook will abuse Jeremy Lin on both sides of the court.
Thunder in five
The Los Angeles Lakers’ season started off full of promise but was full will heartache. Yet on the final day of the regular season, LA had the opportunity to go from not being in the playoffs to reaching the 7th seed, and did just that. That win set up a showdown with longtime rival, the San Antonio Spurs. Magic Johnson projected L.A. would beat the Spurs should they meet in the playoffs. That prediction was made two weeks before Kobe Bryant blew out his Achilles tendon. The Lakers have a punchers chance but they will need a flawless performance from Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Tony Parker will have his way with a healthy Steve Nash let alone an injured Nash. Steve Blake has played extremely well coming back from injury but he’s no match for Parker. Transition defense isn’t even in the Lakers vocabulary as they were dead last this season defending the fast break. L.A . will make it interesting. However, San Antonio has too many weapons and they will prevail to the next round.
Spurs in six
The matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors could easily be the best series of the first round in both conferences. These teams can run with the best of them, which is exciting to watch. Both teams were below average in defense, so scoring won’t be an issue. How the Warriors fare outside of Oracle Arena will be key in their success in this series. Golden State were 19-22 on the road during the regular season, where Denver’s home record was a league leading 38-3.
Denver has suffered some key injuries at the wrong time. Danilo Gallinari has a torn ACL, Ty Lawson’s partially torn plantar fascia and Kenneth Faried’s sprained ankle are tough obstacles to face. However, head coach George Karl always have his team ready to play especially in big games. He’s a master at getting his players to reach the greatest potential.
Nuggets in six
The Clips edged the Grizzlies in last years’ playoffs and Memphis would love to return the favor in 2013. This time it’s L.A. who has the home court advantage. Chris Paul is coming off a MVP like season. Paul and his counterpart Blake Griffin led the way to a record win total for the franchise, coasting to its first division crown. It’s official! The city of Los Angeles has two NBA teams now. The Grizzlies proved that there’s life after Rudy Gay, having their best season in franchise history.
This series is almost a toss-up. Look for Memphis to get its revenge.
Grizzlies in seven
By Keith Madyun