Western Conference playoffs feature incredible balance

Western Conference playoffs feature incredible balance
Don't be surprised if Tim Duncan (21) and the top-seeded Spurs meet Kevin Durant and the second-seeded Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Then again, don't be surprised if the Clippers, Rockets, Blazers, Warriors or Grizzlies make it there instead of the two favorites. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)

Pick a champion, any champion.

You could make a case for any of the eight playoff teams to win the wonderfully wild Western Conference.


San Antonio has the best record in the NBA and features more precise movement than Cirque du Soleil.

Oklahoma City has the hardest player to stop in the game, Kevin Durant, and a home crowd that makes the Thunder roster seem 18,203 deep.

The Clippers are capable of being more than a tease under Coach Doc Rivers, who has molded his stars into new and improved versions of themselves.

Houston can outscore just about anyone with James Harden driving for easy baskets and Dwight Howard somehow averaging 18 points a game without any legitimate post moves.

Portland has perhaps the Next Big Three with LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum.

Golden State's Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have never met a shot they wouldn't take — or make.

Memphis has played as well as anyone the last two months, going 23-9 since the week before the All-Star break.

Dallas has … um … well … All right, so the eighth-seeded Mavericks probably aren't going to win the conference title.

But everyone else has to feel as if they have a shot. Sixth-seeded Golden State has the toughest path, potentially having to beat the third-seeded Clippers, second-seeded Oklahoma City and top-seeded San Antonio to reach the Finals.

The Warriors' first-round series against the Clippers might as well be played on a square canvas surrounded by ropes because there's the potential for uppercuts and jabs when these teams get together.

Houston versus Portland also looks as if it could go seven, with the first team to play defense winning. The Trail Blazers haven't made it past the first round since 2000, when they suffered an epic Game 7 collapse against the Lakers in the conference finals.

Of course, there's always hope. This year, in the West, it's everywhere.