With the regular season over, the seeds are decided. We now know which teams play each other and their likely path during the playoffs. The Western Conference playoff race was competitive, with 5 of the teams securing their spots over the last 2 games of the season. For the 5th consecutive season, a Western Conference team secured the best record in the NBA. This time it was the Houston Rockets. 6 teams participated in the 2017 NBA playoffs. New Orleans and Minnesota are the new teams this season. Minnesota had to fight for its playoff spot until the last day of the season, and ended the longest NBA playoff drought.
First Round Playoffs
Houston Rockets (1) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8)
Regular Season record: Houston 4 – 0 Minnesota
After 13 seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves are finally in the playoffs. Their 8th seed will see them face the NBA’s best team this season, Houston. The Rockets have swept the Timberwolves in the regular season with 4 wins.
The Timberwolves have got talent in Jimmy Butler, Towns and Wiggins leading the line up. Teague and Gibson, along with Crawford and Rose pull their weight as well. What is a concern is the apparent lack of defensive effort, as the younger players have been called out by Butler several times this season.
The Rockets have transformed themselves this season. One of the best attacks but a reliable defence thanks to the trades they made this season. The first 60 win season in franchise history, a healthy MVP candidate and star point guard. The Rockets should have no issue washing the Timberwolves away.
Verdict: Houston 4 – 0 Minnesota
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)
Regular Season record: Thunder 3 – 1 Jazz
The series against the Jazz is when the Thunder’s free agency will seemingly have worked or failed. The teams met early in the season, thus the regular season matches are not going to indicate the real potential of the teams. Over the second half of the season, with the return of Gobert, The Jazz were one of the best teams in the NBA. Their main perfromers also included Mitchell, Ingles and Rubio.
The Thunder have their big 3, Steven Adams and Corey Brewer. Their second unit is not strong. A big concern for the Thunder big 3, is their maverick like nature. There are days either of George, Westbrook or Anthony can shoot 30% or 70% from the field. Of course, with playoff time, they can now play 40 minutes or so a night without concern.
It would be a difficult match up for the Thunder against the Jazz, but their big 3, have more experience and skills to push the series in their favour.
Verdict: Thunder 4 – 2 Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs New Orleans Pelicans (6)
Regular Season Record: 2 -2
Another interesting matchup in the Western Conference playoffs. Portland and New Orleans could have been the best front court against one of the best back courts. With Cousins injured, that’s not going to happen. The Pelicans have reached the 6th seed in no small thanks to the Herculean effort of Anthony Davis. The Brow, led the team well after Cousins went down.Nikola Mirotic was a smart acquisition by the team Jrue Holiday is justifying his big contract and Rondo has always been a reliable veteran, pass first point guard.
On the other hand, Portland have always been considered an underdog team led by Lillard and McCollum. Lillard, who has spoken on staying with the team till the end of his career has a big front court man in Jusuf Nurkic and Ed Davis. This makes Portland a team that can pull its weight on the board.
Verdict: Portland 4 – 3 New Orleans .
Golden State Warriors (2) vs San Antonio Spurs (7)
Regular season record: Warriors 3 – 1 Spurs
On Paper, this would be a match worthy of the conference finals. Yet, the Spurs are seeded 7th and are facing their first sub-50 win season since Tim Duncan. This time, the series between the two sides is not going to be some epic clash, but a sweep.
The Spurs are an ageing team of veterans and youngsters. The older members of the team such as Ginobili, Gasol, and Aldridge have done most of the heavy lifting. They are a team playing without their best player, Leonard.
The Warriors, are not the best team in the West anymore. While injuries to their stars have hampered them, they are a tough team. Durant, Green adn Thompson should comfortably lead them past San Antonio.
Verdict: Warriors 4 – 0 Spurs