NBA playoffs: Western Conference first round preview

  • Chris Paul
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Lebron James
  • Luka Doncic
By timrodriguez August 17, 2020 0 Comment
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The matchups are set after the seeding games and Western Conference play-in. What will a “bubble first round” look like in the NBA?

The Portland Trail Blazers have knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. What are the West playoffs going to look like in the bubble? What’s in store for this absolutely loaded conference?

Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs Portland Trail Blazers (8)

The Blazers are no ordinary eight seed. After an injury plagued season up until the shut down in March, Portland caught fire in the bubble. Damian Lillard won MVP of the NBA restart and led his team back from what seemed like a deep hole. The roster, while still missing some contributors, will be one hell of a matchup for the Lakers, who are playing like shells of themselves. Lillard leads the scoring charge for this team but he isn’t alone. CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Gary Trent have stepped up and given Portland some much needed buckets in these nine games they have played. However, Portland’s best asset in this series is their size. They can throw multiple bodies like Hassan Whiteside, Jusuf Nurkic, and the young Zach Collins at superstar Anthony Davis.

Unfortunately for Portland, this roster is missing one thing: Literally anyone that can even try to guard LeBron James. In year 17, LeBron has taken his game to a whole new level. James is averaging double digit assists for the first time in his legendary career. In this series however, James will need to take on the majority of the scoring duties as Portland has no defense on the wing with Trevor Ariza opting out of the NBA restart. The Lakers are not playing well at all, and it will keep the series competitive, but they will ultimately prevail in the opening round.

Prediction: Lakers win 4-2

Los Angeles Clippers (2) vs Dallas Mavericks (7)

The Dallas Mavericks have the brightest future of any team in the NBA. Luka Doncic has emerged as an MVP caliber player in just his second season. Doncic finished the 2020 season averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. He is one of the future faces of the NBA and hopes to help Dallas contend for championships for years to come. Alongside him, the Mavericks have some very nice pieces. Kristaps Porzingis seems to be back in basketball shape, evident by his offensive explosion in the bubble. Him and the giant Boban Marjanovic give Dallas an advantage in terms of height and length down low. Dallas is no ordinary seven seed, and will give Los Angeles a hell of a fight.

The Clippers, also known as the deepest team in the league, have spent the entire season preparing for the playoffs. They have been cautious with injuries, avoiding bringing players back to soon. They’ve given their stars ample rest during the season, meaning that everyone should be fresh for the postseason. They will be getting back Montrezl Harrell, who will be a key piece in keeping Dallas’ seven footers from killing the Clippers on the glass. Bulldog Patrick Beverley will be out for the foreseeable future, meaning the Clippers will lose some of their defensive prowess. The key to this series is taking advantage of Dallas’ weakness: athleticism. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be able to frustrate the young Doncic on both ends of the floor.

Prediction: Clippers win 4-2

Denver Nuggets (3) vs Utah Jazz (6)

Utah has the potential to steal a game early in this series thanks to Denver’s injury situation. Guards Gary Harris and Will Barton are expected to be out for at least game one. That is a lot of on-ball scoring and shooting to lose. Even with those guys, Utah is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Now, they have the ability to completely gear their defense towards stopping the talented big man, Nikola Jokic. Michael Porter will need to become a number one option in this series. Utah has tons of length and will disrupt Denver’s free flowing offense.

The Nuggets are really going to need to shoot well if they want to win this series. With a lack of ball handlers, Utah’s elite defense has the potential to take over the series. Once again, Porter is going to have to be unstoppable for Denver to win. The Jazz have enough bodies to throw at Jokic to slow him and down and get him frustrated.

Prediction: Jazz win 4-3

Houston Rockets (4) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

Oklahoma City and the Rockets will have perhaps the most exciting first round in the West. These are two high octane offenses who have been pleasant surprises in their own unique way. Oklahoma City was supposed to be “tanking”. They acquired Chris Paul and loads of draft assets. Paul was in trade talks for even more draft capital. Instead, the Thunder came out and played hard all season long. Paul has been a great leader for the young Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder have an array of scorers that have made them one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA.

Houston has been a surprise in terms of success with a unique system. Halfway through the season, they dealt young big man Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks. Since then, the tallest player in their starting lineup has been the 6’7” PJ Tucker. Houston has gone with a complete “pace and space” offense. They run and down the floor with ease and let three pointers fly like there is not tomorrow. They have had encouraging results, and can hang with any team in the league in terms of scoring. Unfortunately, they do not play much defense outside of Robert Covington and aforementioned Tucker. The games will be close, but the Thunder will score at will and beat them up on the inside.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-1

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