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NBA playoffs: Western Conference preview

SportsNBAPro BasketballBasketballGolden State WarriorsMemphis GrizzliesLos Angeles Clippers

3. CLIPPERS

57-25 (Home: 34-7; Road: 23-18)

vs. 6. GOLDEN STATE

51-31 (Home: 27-14; Road: 24-17)

Season series: Tied, 2-2.

Key stat: The Clippers lead the NBA in three-point defense, holding teams to 33.2% shooting from beyond the arc. That could come in handy against the Warriors, who made 774 three-pointers, second-most in the league, and shot 38% from distance.

Outlook: Andrew Bogut's rib fracture could sideline him for the duration of the playoffs, forcing the Warriors to go with a smaller lineup whenever replacement center Jermaine O'Neal isn't on the court. This could prompt Clippers Coach Doc Rivers to call plays for center DeAndre Jordan for the first time all season.

Prediction: The Splash Brothers duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson won't be able to keep Golden State from going kerplunk against a deeper and hungrier team that also happens to hate the Warriors. Clippers in six.

1. SAN ANTONIO

62-20 (Home: 32-9; Road: 30-11)

vs. 8. DALLAS

49-33 (Home: 26-15; Road: 23-18)

Season series: San Antonio, 4-0

Key stat: The Spurs' legendary ball movement can be seen in their league-leading 25.1 assists per game.

Outlook: San Antonio is probably glad Dallas lost on the final day of the regular season, slotting the Mavericks into this series instead of the more dangerous Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are tremendous shot-makers, but the Mavericks are below average defensively and not particularly athletic with four starters 32 or older.

Prediction: This should be a relatively stress-free series for San Antonio, though Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich probably will find something to complain about. Spurs in five.

2. OKLAHOMA CITY

59-23 (Home: 34-7; Road: 25-16)

vs. 7. MEMPHIS

50-32 (Home: 27-14; Road: 23-18)

Season series: Oklahoma City, 3-1.

Key stat: Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant never seems to have an off night, scoring at least 25 points in 46 of his last 47 games.

Outlook: Oklahoma City should give thanks in its pregame prayer for Russell Westbrook, whose absence doomed the Thunder last season in the conference semifinals against the Grizzlies. Having Westbrook around means Durant won't have to carry his team on his spindly shoulders.

Prediction: The Grizzlies' nice run the last few months will grit and grind its way to a quick halt. Thunder in five.

4. HOUSTON

54-28 (Home: 33-8; Road: 21-20)

vs. 5. PORTLAND

54-28 (Home: 31-10; Road: 23-18)

Season series: Houston, 3-1.

Key stat: Whichever team plays a smidgen of defense will have a huge advantage. Houston ranks 23rd in points allowed (103.1 a game) and Portland is 22nd (102.8).

Outlook: Both teams have plenty to prove. Houston's Dwight Howard hasn't made it past the first round since 2010 and Portland wants to show it wasn't a two-month wonder after opening the season with a league-best 24-5 record.

Prediction: The phrase "James Harden driving layup" will appear more than any other in the play-by-play accounts of this series. Rockets in seven.

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