NBA playoffs: Golden State, Spurs are the favorites for Finals

The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are the Finals favorites going into the NBA playoffs

The popular narrative throughout the season was that any one of six teams could represent the ultra-talented Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

But with the playoffs set to begin Saturday, oddsmakers are focusing on two teams in the West: Golden State, with the best record (67-15) in the league, is the betting choice to reach the Finals.

And the second pick? The ageless wonders and defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs rediscovered their magic in the last two months and seem ready to defend their crown after winning 21 of their last 25 games. Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan won the first of their five NBA championships in 1999 and their challenge is to win back-to-back titles for the first time.

San Antonio's 11-game winning streak, though, was snapped in the regular-season finale at New Orleans and that left the Spurs as the sixth seed, so they face the No. 3-seeded Clippers in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Warriors emerged as the most exciting and entertaining team in the NBA, thanks to the talented "Splash Brothers," their All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State lost just two games at raucous Oracle Arena during a franchise-best season, going 39-2. Guess who pinned one of those losses on the Warriors at home?

Yes, the Spurs.

The Warriors are loaded with talent, starting with MVP candidate Curry, Thompson, defensive player of the year candidate Draymond Green, center Andrew Bogut, plus one of the best benches in the league led by sixth-man Andre Iguodala.

And that's why the Warriors are a betting favorite to win the franchise's first NBA championship since 1975.

The Clippers are a capable team with its core group of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford.

They have one of the league's best in-game coaches in Doc Rivers and the Clippers head into the playoffs just as hot as the Spurs, owning an seven-game win streak and having won 14 out of their last 15 games.

Houston, the No. 2 seed, faces the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round. The Rockets have their own MVP candidate in shooting guard James Harden and will need center Dwight Howard to be productive.

And keep in mind that Dallas was the only team to extend San Antonio to seven games in last year's playoffs.

Memphis can grind any team down with its big-man tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Portland is the fourth seed because it won the Northwest Division, but will open at Memphis because the Grizzlies have a better record.

New Orleans reached the playoffs on the back of young superstar Anthony Davis and face the top-seeded Warriors.

But the Spurs continue to be driven this season, after being obsessed with beating Miami in the 2014 NBA Finals, following an excruciating Game 7 loss to the Heat in the 2013 Finals.

"The Spurs are the best team in the NBA, as far as I'm concerned," Rivers said. "They are the last team to win the title. And until someone beats them, no matter what all our records are, they're the best. They've been the benchmark and I think all of us know that."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter:@BA_Turner

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
44°