April 12, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35), point guard Russell Westbrook (0), point guard Derek Fisher (6) and small forward Ronnie Brewer (8) share a laugh during a time out in the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. The Thunder won the game 106-90. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs 2013: Western Conference First Round Preview and Predictions

It’s the best season in sports, with the NBA Playoffs finally upon us. I know you are just as excited as I am. There are a plethora of headlines and  great match-ups, so let’s not wait any longer as we break down the first round match-ups as well as my predictions on who will advance to the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs.

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets

Talk about headlines and fireworks….

In his first year as a Houston Rocket, James Harden will get the opportunity to oust his former team that decided to trade him this past off-season. Harden helped the Thunder advance to the NBA Finals last season but ultimately lost the championship series in five games to the Miami Heat. That is now history…

The Rockets have the offense to keep up with the Thunder but will struggle to defend. Houston has not shown they can consistently get defensive stops which is critical in post-season play. Harden a lone will help the Rockets steal a couple of games from OKC, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will prove to be too much for the Rockets.

Prediction: Thunder in 6

 

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies

We may be able to call the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies rivals after this series…

The Clippers ended the Grizzlies season last year after winning Game Seven on Memphis’ home court in the first round of the 2012 Playoffs. The Grizzlies will try to avoid that from occurring this time around.

Memphis heads into the Playoffs as the No.1 rated defense in the NBA. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are allowing opponents to just 89.3 points per game. On the flip-side, the Clippers boast one of the premier offenses in the league.

A match-up to pay attention to is between the two Point Guards, Chris Paul and Mike Conley. Memphis will need to establish dominance in the paint and will have to eliminate the Clippers from fast-break opportunities.

This series is a complete toss-up but the fact that Memphis no longer has Rudy Gay along with the Clippers’ having home court advantage makes me tip the scale in the Clippers favor. However, this will be a very, very close series.

Prediction: Clippers in 7

 

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors

The Nuggets and Warriors will likely have viewers moving their heads left to right as both teams can run up and down the floor as well as any team.

Head Coach Mark Jackson has done an outstanding job leading this young Warriors team to the Playoffs for the first time since 2007. Stephen Curry–who should have been an All-Star–will need to have a huge  series if the Warriors have a shot of upsetting the Nuggets.

Denver will have the ultimate home court advantage, posting the best home record this season (38-3). Golden State will need to shoot lights out and play even better defense than they did in the regular season.

Nuggets’ Forward Kenneth Faried is expected to play in this series which is great news for Nuggets fans. Although Denver is banged up and has lost Danilo Gallinari for the season, they should end, what was a great 2012 campaign for the Warriors

Prediction: Nuggets in 6

 

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers

In my book, this is the most interesting first round Playoff Series.

With so much concern regarding Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli’s health, the Spurs have struggled recently, losing seven of their past ten games. One of those games came at the hands of the Kobe-less Lakers.

The Lakers march into the Playoffs, winners of five games in a row and eight out of nine. Without Kobe, the Lakers have turned to their two-headed monster down low. Pau Gasol has hushed critics with his stellar play and Dwight Howard has looked like the old Dwight Howard that we witnessed when he was with the Magic.

But not so fast….

San Antonio will hear all about how the Lakers will cause them trouble and how they have just as good of a chance as any to upset the Spurs in the first round. Greg Popovich is a master at game-planning and always finds different was to motivate his team. So, we all know he’s taking notes.

As concerning as Tony Parker’s health really is, the Spurs will find a way and will move on past the Lakers, ending a very disappointing season in Laker Land.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

 

What are your predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs? Share your thoughts with us in the comments sections and let your voice be heard.

 

Tags: Denver Nuggets Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers Memphis Grizzlies NBA NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder San Antonio Spurs Western Conference

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