NBA Western Conference Playoff Storylines
By Brandon Simmons
You can already smell the tension in the air coming from the Western Conference playoffs. This year’s Western playoff race is shaping up to be one of the more exciting and intriguing events in recent memory from top to bottom.
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers
This is obviously going to be a one-sided matchup but the main storyline will have nothing to with Portland at all. Warriors forward Kevin Durant will make his playoff debut with Golden State. The last time Durant had a postseason appearance was last year’s 3-1 flopping against Golden State. The Warriors suffered their own 3-1 implosion in the Finals and became a match made in super-team heaven when they signed Durant last Summer. KD is coming off of an injury that saw him miss a month’s worth of action so fans will be anxious to see where he is in terms of health and performance.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Surprise, surprise. The San Antonio Spurs have returned to the playoffs. They will be taking on a Memphis Grizzlies that they struggled with long ago but not so much anymore. When the 8th seeded Grizzlies knocked out the top seeded Spurs in 2011, The front court of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol was putting the hurt on their older opponents of Tim Duncan. But the script has been flipped with San Antonio replacing Duncan with Lamarcus Aldrdge, who they signed last season, and also the addition of forward Kawhi Leonard, who they drafted that same year of their untimely exit. Fast forward to this season to see that Aldridge has given San Antonio a nice, “younger” transition from Duncan and Leonard has become the Western counterpart of Lebron James. That could prove to be too much for the aging Gasol and Randolp; not to mention defensive specialist Tony Allen, who may or may not be available for the series.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Two of this year’s MVP candidates will go at each other at least for 4 games because, at the end of the day, this is a team sport. James Harden new found success as a point guard has helped lift the Houston Rockets towards the top of the West by setting the record for a team’s point contribution by a single player. Russell Westbrook has also lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder with his historic triple double run with a team that many left for dead when Kevin Durant left for golden pastures last summer.
Without question, both players have put their teams in the best position possible to win a title, which makes this matchup more interesting than many would have thought. The Rockets are a powerful offensive team as well as Westbrook with his scoring and assists. The equalizer in that observation is that Houston plays sloppy defense; sloppy to the point that a team who is carried solely by one man, might cause for a few close games, but don’t expect any of them to be wins.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. the Utah Jazz
This matchup is one that could go either way with storylines coming from both sides that are looking at two very different futures. The Utah Jazz have definitely been one of the surprise teams in the league led by their young core of Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. On the flip side, you have the experienced Los Angeles Clippers led by guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin but their road ahead looks a little bumpy. This group has been around for quite a few years now, but have no made no real championship progress. Paul has yet to make it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs as teams such as Golden State and San Antonio seem to get better, younger and more formidable to rule in the Western Conference. It seems the only time the Clippers have made it to the Conference Finals is when one of their star players are in a trade rumor before the draft starts. This is already a great 4 and 5 seed matchup to watch, but it could also be a classic if it’s the last time the NBA sees “Lob City” together.
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