NBA: Western Conference Opening Round Pt. 1

After a wild finish to the regular season, the post season match-ups are now set. Its time for the NBA Playoffs.

Golden State Warriors against Los Angeles Clippers

Schedule

Game one 14th April Oracle Arena. Game two 16th April Oracle Arena. Game three 18th April Staples Center. Game four 21st April Staples Center. Game five 24th April Oracle Arena. Game six 26th April Staples Center. Game seven 28th April Oracle Arena.

Head to head this season. Warriors three wins – Clippers one win.

The one versus eight match-up pits two time defending champions Golden State Warriors against surprise packages the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors will start favorites against the Clippers as they look to win their third consecutive title. With a strong lineup that is fit for the postseason, they have serious playoff experience on their side. Though the Warriors finished with the one seed, their defense has flagged slightly compared to previous years. The addition of Andrew Bogut and increased minutes of Kevon Looney should shore up the defence in the playoffs though.

The Clippers were in no way expected to end up in the Playoffs, but they finished the regular season with a 16 and 7 record since the All-Star break. It is a testament to Coach Doc Rivers that they ended the season with the leagues fifth best offense. They also have a fit roster for the playoffs and made a smart addition to the team in the last week with the pickup of Rodney McGruder.

Key match-ups

The match-up of the sixth men will be key if the Clippers are to make this a competitive series. This will put Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell against Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. Though this Warriors pair wont put up the counting stats of their Clippers counterparts, they are very important for the Warriors defensively. Iguodala will need to knock down open shots when they come to him. While Bogut may be called on early if DeMarcus Cousins ends up in foul trouble. Williams and Harrell are two of the best sixth men in the league and are excellent at getting to the line. This skill is important in the Playoffs but they wont get the easy calls that they may have got from the referees in the regular season.

Patrick Beverley matching up against Stephen Curry in the first round should have NBA fans salivating. Curry has a proven post-season record and he wont be phased by All-Defense candidate Beverley. In saying this though, Beverley’s physical style of play may still push Curry in a game or two. With lots of ball screens to be employed, the Warriors will try and get Beverley in a bad matchup with Klay Thompson.

Series Prediction – Golden State Warriors to win 4 – 0

Houston Rockets against Utah Jazz

Schedule

Game one 14th April Toyota Center. Game two 17th April Toyota Center. Game three 20th April Vivint Smart Home Arena. Game four 22nd April Vivint Smart Home Arena. Game five 24th April Toyota Center. Game six 26th April Vivint Smart Home Arena. Game seven 28th April Toyota Center.

Head to head this season. Houston Rockets two wins – Utah Jazz two wins.

The four versus five match-up features the Houston Rockets with home advantage against the Utah Jazz.

The Rockets will start as slight favorites against the Jazz. Having only lost five games since the All-Star break, the Rockets are one of the hottest teams in the league. The return of Chris Paul and Clint Capela has scaled up their defense while super charging their three point shooting and pick and roll offense. They have playoff experience across the board, and will look to get back to the Western Conference Finals this year.

The Jazz have had injury issues all year but now have a fit squad with only Dante Exum not suiting up. Also having a strong run post the All-Star break, they finished the season with the leagues fourth best defense. They will push the Rockets hard as they allowed the least three pointers attempts in the league this season. The Jazz have more shooting than last year but will rely heavily on Donovan Mitchell as their main option.

Key Match-ups

The matchup of big men Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert will be massive in this series. Gobert has scaled up his offensive game this season and has shown increased touch and awareness around the rim. Capela is more mobile but isn’t the monster that Gobert is defensively. If Gobert gets dragged out to the three point line in switches then this could be trouble for the Jazz. The Rockets pick and roll defense will need to be on point, as Joe Ingles two man game with Gobert is now at an elite level.

The second match-up to watch for is Donovan Mitchell against Chris Paul. With Eric Gordon starting at small forward, Chris Paul will be given the job of marking the smaller Mitchell. Chris Paul is a defensive mastermind but has lost some of his quickness in the last year or two. If he can keep up with Mitchell while disrupt his smooth offensive game, this will hurt the Jazz. Mitchell has had an excellent year and will be looking to keep his jump shot hot in the post season. Paul can score from anywhere on the court and if he is fit is a perfect foil for James Harden’s game.

Series Prediction – Houston Rockets to win 4 – 2

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