2011–2012 NBA Preview and Predictions Part IV: Western Conference Playoffs
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. #8 Denver Nuggets – Should be a fairly easy match-up for the Thunder. You could argue that the Nuggets are a deeper team, but I just don’t think they have that true go to guy that can get them points when they need them, like the Thunder have in Durant and Westbrook. The Nuggets will play scrappy and tough make it competitive, but I think the Thunder win in five.
Thunder win 4–1
#4 Portland Trail Blazers Vs. #5 San Antonio Spurs – Tough match-up for the Spurs in this one. The Blazers are deep, athletic and most importantly younger than the Spurs. Like the Celtics in the East I think that the Spurs title window has closed and the Blazers will finally get out of the first round this year. I think it will be hard fought series as the Spurs will not go out without a fight, but in the end they just will not have enough left in the tank.
Trail Blazers win 4–3
#3 Dallas Mavericks Vs. #6 Memphis Grizzlies – By the time the playoffs come around the scariest team may be the Memphis Grizzlies. They came within a game of the Conference finals last season and that was without their best all-around player Rudy Gay. The Mavericks are an aging group, who has all but admitted they are playing for next year by not re-signing key contributors from their championship team to save up for this summer’s free agent class. Memphis is too deep and their front court is too tough for the Mavs, Grizzlies advance.
Memphis wins 4–1
#2 Los Angeles Clippers Vs. #7 Los Angeles Lakers – I never thought the day would come when I would have the Clippers as the two seed and the Lakers the seven seed. But the Lakers are thin off the bench and their starters looked even older than they are against the Bulls on Christmas Day. The Clippers are just too deep and talented and their young fresh legs will run the Lakers ragged. And remember this, the last time the Lakers were this bad Kobe quit on his team in the playoffs, in a game seven, and basically told the Lakers to make some trades or trade him, which is how they ended up with Gasol the next season.
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. #4 Portland Trail Blazers – This has seven game series written all over it. Both teams are young, deep and athletic. The difference in the end once again though to me will be the ability of Durant and Westbrook to create their own shots off the dribble, while the Blazers best player LaMarcus Aldridge will have a tough time getting points against the defensive minded front line of Perkins and Ibaka for the Thunder. It will put too much pressure on streaky shooters Jamal Crawford and Gerald Wallace. The Thunder will win a close Game Seven at home.
Thunder win 4–3
#2 Los Angeles Clippers Vs. #6 Memphis Grizzlies – Another series that has seven games written all over it. The winner of this series will be the team that wins the battle up front. It will be the Clippers Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan versus Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph of the Grizzlies. I like the Clippers a tiny bit better because they are more athletic and play better defense. To me the Clippers are slightly better in every aspect between these two teams, but not so much better that this will be an easy series. Once again I think the home court will be beneficial and the Clippers will move on.
Clippers win 4–3
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. #2 Los Angeles Clippers – I’ve got to believe this one will be yet another hard fought seven game series. It would not surprise me if neither one of these teams won two games in a row. I think the Thunder will win all the odd numbered games and unfortunately for the Clippers they will win all the even numbered games, leaving them a game shy of the finals. I think the Thunder has the height and athleticism up front to control the Clippers big men and the Clippers will lack the scoring to match that of Westbrook and Durant. The Thunder also has maybe the one point guard that has the quickness to beat Chris Paul off the dribble. Thunder advance to the NBA Finals.
Thunder win 4–3
So those are my picks for the Western conference. Check back later for my finals match-up between the Thunder and Heat.