NBA Western Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Western Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Golden State Warriors (1) VS Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Golden State won the season series 4-0. Golden State had two blowout victories (largest margin 45 points) and two close wins (smallest margin 2 points). The Warriors scored an average of 125 ppg while shooting an average of 52.7% in all 4 games. The two teams haven’t seen each other since January 29th. Portland added Jusuf Nurkic – who is likely to miss this series because of a broken leg – via trade in February. The Warriors had some rocky games (started 2-5 without KD) but dealt with the knee injury to Durant very well. The Warriors rattled off 13 wins in a row before KD returned on April 8th. Golden State wins this series. Only thing to consider is number of games. GSW beat Portland 4-1 last season in the Playoffs.

 

Los Angeles Clippers (4) VS Utah Jazz (5)

Los Angeles Clippers won the season series 3-1. This is the 2nd most intriguing matchup in the Western Conference First Round. I’m not sure how exciting it will be though. The Clippers had 3 victories that ranged from 13-15 points. In those 3 defeats, Utah was simply unable to score averaging only 80.7 ppg. The Jazz shot a woeful 27.9% from 3-point range in their losses to LAC while shooting a sizzling 66.7% in their only win. Utah attempted an average of 22.3 shots from 3-point range in the season series against the Clippers. The terrible shooting from long range is surprising because Utah has shot 37.2% on 3-point shot attempts (which is 9th best in the league as of 4/12/2017). The Clippers are slightly better at 37.5% on 115 more attempts. The teams aren’t much different when you look at the League’s Advanced Statistics. Both teams are top 15 in Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating while being top 6 in Net Rating. The one difference is the pace that each team plays at. Utah is 30th (last) in PACE and the Clippers are 17th. The team that can dictate the flow of each game in this series will likely be the winner. I have the Clippers being that winner in 7 games.

Houston Rockets (3) VS Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Houston won the season series 3-1. Easily the most exciting matchup in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. This series could feature the MVP, Coach of the Year, and 6th Man of the Year winners. I expect this series to be fast and exciting just like the 4 games played during the regular season. 3 of the 4 games were decided by 3 points or less. Both teams averaged over 110 ppg and shot plenty of 3-pointers in each game. Houston true to their motto averaged 40! 3-point attempts while OKC averaged 28.3. This series will be built as “Harden VS Westbrook” but it’ll be more than that. Both players are top 3 in points per game (Westbrook 1st & Harden 3rd) and assists per game (Harden 1st & Westbrook 3rd). Houston’s overall firepower and ability to shoot the 3 will be the deciding factor. Westbrook will be able to will his teammates to a couple of victories but in the end the series will go to Houston in 6 games.

 

San Antonio Spurs (2) VS Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Season series was 2-2. I have no desire to watch this series let alone type this paragraph. But here I am. Both teams won their home games. The games were tough and rugged as you’d expect. Both teams had average field goal percentages in the low 40s during the 4 games. Each team barely got over 90 ppg for the season series. Memphis will grit and grind their way to a win or two but the Spurs will ride MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard into the 2nd Round. Spurs in 6 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

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NBA Western Conference Playoffs

Tendencies 

Sports is all about developing proper habits and being able to repeat them efficiently at a high level. In the NBA, they practice a countless number of hours as individuals. They practice hundreds of times, play 82 games and then some if they make the Playoffs. They are fed scouting reports and watch hours upon hours of film. Yet when it’s the crucial moments of a game we all ask “why did ____ do that?” without thinking about the tendencies that a NBA team or player develops over the course of a season. 

Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder are sick. They blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals because of – yep – tendencies. For 3 of the first 4 games OKC did everything “right”. KD and Russ shared the ball – they trusted their teammates – and did things folks have said they needed to do. But by Game 5 it was back to the old tendencies. KD threw up 31 shots and Russ wasn’t too far behind with 28 attempts. The next highest was Ibaka at 10 attempts (32 total for guys not wearing “35” or “0′). Games 6 and 7 played out much the same and we saw the Thunder “choke” as most like to call it in sports.

 

Call it what you want but I didn’t see a team choking. I saw a team reverting back to the tendencies we knew them to have. 2 star players trying to do most of the work alone. They couldn’t shake what has been in them – 8 seasons for KD and 7 for Westbrook – their NBA careers. Those two have played the same through injuries and other setbacks. Now it’s time for them to look at those tendencies and decide if they want to try a different path or stay the same. Lucky for them it’s only basketball.

Tendencies